Morton’s toe (or Greek foot) is the common term for the condition of a shortened first metatarsal (big toe) in relation to the second metatarsal. It is a type of brachymetatarsia (a condition in which there is one or more abnormally short metatarsals).
The name derives from American orthopedic surgeon Dudley Joy Morton. Although commonly described as a disorder, it is sufficiently common to be considered a normal variant of foot shape (its prevalence varies with different populations).
The main symptom experienced due to Morton’s toe is discomfort and callusing of the second metatarsal head. This is because the first metatarsal head would normally bear the majority of a person’s body weight during the propulsive phases of gait, but these forces are transferred to the second (smaller) metatarsal head because of its anterior positioning. In shoe-wearing cultures, it can be problematic. For instance, it may cause nail problems from wearing shoes with a profile that does not accommodate the longer second toe.
It has a long association with disputed anthropological and ethnic interpretations. Morton called it Metatarsus atavicus, considering it an atavism (an evolutionary throwback) recalling prehuman grasping toes. In statuary and shoe fitting, it has been called the Greek foot (as opposed to the Egyptian foot, where the great toe is longer). It was an idealized form in Greek sculpture, and this persisted as an aesthetic standard through Roman and Renaissance periods and later (the Statue of Liberty has toes of this proportion). There are also associations found within Celtic groups. The French call it commonly ‘pied grec’ (just as the Italians call it ‘piede greco’), but sometimes ‘pied ancestral’ or ‘pied de Néanderthal.’