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Preliminary observations of muscle fibre cross sectional area of flexor digitorum brevis in cadaver feet with and without claw toes

Jackie Locke*, Stuart A Baird and Jamie Frankis

Author Affiliations

Department of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery, Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow, Scotland, G4 OBA, United Kingdom

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Journal of Foot and Ankle Research 2010, 3:32  doi:10.1186/1757-1146-3-32

Published: 22 December 2010



In order to facilitate normal gait, toes require to be in a rectus position during the propulsive phase. This requires a correct balance and sequence of activity of the intrinsic musculature of the feet. Alteration of this balance and sequence may lead to the development of claw toes. Atrophy of the lumbricals occurs in the development of claw toes, but it is not known if changes occur in any other intrinsic muscles, including flexor digitorum brevis. This study set out to investigate whether hypertrophic changes were evident in flexor digitorum brevis in feet with claw toes.


Four cadaver feet were investigated, two with rectus toes and two with claw toes. Flexor digitorum brevis was removed from each, and seven anatomically significant tissue sections from each muscle were routinely processed, cut and stained. One hundred and sixty muscle fibre cross sectional areas were measured from each section.


The mean age of the donors was 81.5 years, and three of the four were female. Results showed that the cross sectional area of fibres from feet with claw toes was 417 μg2 significantly greater (p < 0.01) than the cross sectional area of fibres from feet with rectus toes, which was 263 μg2.


Although this study has several limitations, preliminary observations reveal that flexor digitorum brevis muscle fibre cross sectional area is significantly reduced in feet with claw toes. This would indicate a relationship between muscle fibre atrophy of flexor digitorum brevis and clawing of the lesser toes.