Open Access Research article

Biphalangeal/triphalangeal fifth toe and impact in the pathology of the fifth ray

Jose Gallart1, David González1, Jose Valero1, Javier Deus2, Pedro Serrano3 and Manuel Lahoz1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Human Anatomy and Histology. School of Medicine, University of Zaragoza, Calle Domingo Miral s/n., Zaragoza 50009, Spain

2 Department of Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology, School of Medicine, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain

3 Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2014, 15:295  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-15-295

Published: 5 September 2014



Having reviewed the studies on the biphalangeal fifth toe, we have observed a great disparity of data depending on the research center. We have investigated the frequency of biphalangeal toes and also its handedness. We have also analyzed the relationship of pathological deviations of fifth toe with this feature and with the fifth metatarsal.


We performed a descriptive prospective study, which analyzed 2494 feet (1247 people) with bilateral dorsoplantar radiographs. We studied the number of phalanges of the fifth toe, the deviations in the sagittal and transverse plane, and the state of the fifth metatarsal phalangeal joint.


After analyzing the data we found the presence of biphalangeal fifth toe in 46.3% of the feet, presenting this feature bilaterally in 97.4% of them. A statistically significant higher percentage of pathological toes was found in people with triphalangeal fifth toe (pathological in 29.91%) than in the biphalangeal toes (pathological in 15.60%). We found that these differences are accentuated in the alterations of the fifth toe in the sagittal plane.


It is almost 4 times more likely to suffer a fifth hammer toe if the fifth toe is triphalangeal (OR = 3.98 to p =0.000). Alterations in the coronal plane of the fifth toe are associated with tailor’s bunion (p =0.000). We did not find any significant differences regarding the need for surgery of the fifth toe of the biphalangeal (39.1%) versus triphalangeal toes (60.9%). Clinical relevance: There may be an association between pathologic deviations and bigger mobility of the triphalangeal fifth toes. However, biphalangeal fifth toes show bigger rigidity leading to smaller accommodation inside the shoe, which may lead to less painful feet and decreased proportion of surgery.

Fifth toe; Foot; Biphalangeal; Triphalangeal; Pathology; Hammer toe; Tailor’s bunion