The small toes of the foot play an important role in movement, i.e. walking or running. They share the pressure with the big toe and help in pushing off with the foot.
Toes become deformed when the pressures on the toe are stronger than their joints can resist. An injury to the toe may damage the joints, bones or the tendons surrounding the joint, which causes an imbalance in the muscle pull leading to a deformity. Ill fitting shoes, either because the shoe is tight or because it has a high heel, which tends to force the toes into the tip of the shoe can cause them to bend upwards. Any deformity of the adjacent toe, for example a bunion, may cause pressure symptoms in the 2nd toe, leading it to bend upwards to accommodate the big toe. Various other toe deformities can be caused by disorders affecting the neuromuscular system like polio, cerebral palsy, previously affected compartment syndrome of the leg/foot.
The main problem with deformed toes is pain on top of the toes because they rub on shoes. This rubbing may simply be uncomfortable, or the skin may be rubbed raw. If the toes are bent upwards, particularly if it is stiff, the toe may press down and cause pain in the ball of the foot ("metatarsalgia"). Bent toes may rub on one another or on the big toe, especially if the big toe is bent towards the second toe (bunion).
A clinical examination can diagnose any deformity. A x-ray may be asked to confirm associated problems in the foot like the bunion or a slightly long metatarsal bone.
The most important thing is to buy shoes which have enough room in the toe area for your toes to fit comfortably. Avoid high heels, which tend to force the toes down into the tip of the shoe. Small pads on the top or end of the toe may improve the discomfort.