Be kind to your web-footed friends, for that duck may be somebody's brother, or whatever...
Syndactyly is the medical term for webbed fingers and webbed toes. The following image is a picture of my feet showing the webbed toes on both feet. My feet have been like this ever since I was born, over 50 years ago, and it has never been a problem. I have no syndactyly in my fingers.
When I was born, my mother was upset and wanted the toes separated, but the doctors convinced her that it would be better to leave them alone. Until I was around 10 years old, I thought that everybody had toes like these. Then I discovered that the rest of you were all weird.
As a child, I do not recall ever having been teased about this by other children. Nobody noticed, unless I pointed this out to them, and nobody ever cared. I could swim, but not especially well, and certainly not competitively. As far as I can tell, the webbed toes neither helped not hindered my ability to swim.
I have heard that this is a very common condition, although some cases are associated with one of various named "syndromes". In spite of this, I have never seen another pair of feet like this. Neither of my parents have feet like this, nor do any of my siblings or or children. I have never seen or heard of such a condition in any of my parents' siblings, but I have never examined their feet. My mother claims to have slight webbing between her second and third toes, but I think it is not enough to count.
In any case, I rarely ever thought about this until recently. In August, 2001, I suffered a broken big toe on my left foot as a result of a minor "sports injury". This resulted in getting x-rays of my left foot. When I removed my shoe and sock in preparation for the x-rays, the person taking the x-rays seemed surprised at the condition of my toes, as if he had never seen such a thing. The orthopedist treating my foot also seemed surprised when he saw my bare feet. Even though this was supposed to be so very common, it sounded like he had never seen toes like mine. If this condition is so common, why did my feet look so unusual to these medical professionals?
In order to answer this question, I tried searching the Internet for information on syndactyly, but I was disappointed with the information I was able to find. There are thousands of web pages with information about syndactyly, what causes it and what can be done to "correct" the condition, but very little information about incidence and very few pictures. See the following Syndactyly Links for some examples.
So, maybe one person in 2000 or 3000 may be born with such a condition, but what about the degree? Are most of these in the 0 to 10% range? What percentage of these people have toes joined more than 50% or 80%? What percentage of these people have this condition as part of (or not as part of) a named "syndrome"? Does the frequency of this condition depend on gender?
News: I recently (July 2006) received an informative note from a massage therapist who gets to see a lot of feet, including some with webbed toes. She reports seeing webbed toes on 5-6 clients out of roughly 250 to 300 appointments, so far this year. Both numbers include repeat visits. This implies a ratio of closer to 1 in 50 instead of 1 in 3000. It sounds like there may be a lot more of us than I had thought,
If anybody knows of any better statistics for webbed toes, please let me know. Thanks for your help!
Real people with webbed toes.
I have no control over any of the web pages cited in these links. Eventually some of these links will expire or move to new addreseses.
Does anybody have syndactyly stories to tell? Send your comments to .
I am mainly interested in cases involving only toes and cases that do not involve a "named syndrome". Cases which involve fingers or a named syndrome should be handled by appropriate medical professionals.
Privacy statement: If anyone sends me a message regarding the subject of syndactyly, I promise not to divulge the message or the identity of the author to any other party without explicit approval of the author.
Updated January 13, 2002; (slight change 1/21/03);
(small changes May 29, 2003);
updated 7/23/03; updated 3/25/04; updated 9/8/04; updated 12/18/04;
updated 2/02/05; updated 3/23/05; updated 4/25/05; updated 5/07/05;
updated 5/19/05; updated 9/15/05; updated 9/08/06; updated 9/14/06;
updated 10/09/06; updated 02/10/07