Have You Heard Of Hammertoes?

Do your toes have a weird bend in the middle of them Does this bend to look like an upside-down “V” position? If so, you may have hammertoes.

Hammertoes are foot conditions that can occur due to an imbalance in the muscles or ligaments around a toe joint. This imbalance adds a lot of pressure on the toe’s tendons and joints forcing the toe into the hammerhead shape. Most often, the middle three toes are affected.

What are some common symptoms of hammertoes?

Hammertoes often start as deformities but get progressively worse over time. Therefore, you should seek medical treatment from a physician—particularly a podiatrist. Podiatrists diagnose and treat complications of the foot and ankle. If the podiatrist discovers that the affected toes are still flexible, treatment for the hammertoe may simply involve exercise, physical therapy, and better-fitting shoes. Treatment for hammertoes typically involves controlling foot mechanics, such as walking, using customized orthotics.

Common symptoms include:

  • Contracture of the affected toe
  • Pain and difficulty moving the bent toe.
  • Inflammation, redness, or burning sensation.
  • Corns and calluses from the toe rubbing against the inside of shoes.
  • Pain in the ball of the foot (under bent toe)
  • Open sores (in severe cases)

Hammertoe Risk Factors

Women are more likely to experience hammertoes than men because of the different styles of shoes worn especially high heels.  Hammertoe can also be caused by complications from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, trauma to the foot, heredity, or a cerebral vascular accident. Pain and difficult mobility of the toes, deformities, calluses, and corns are all symptoms of a hammertoe.

Unfortunately, hammertoes can result in serious problems for people with diabetes or poor circulation since they have a higher risk for infections and foot ulcers.

Other factors that can increase your risk of hammertoe include:

  • Toe injury
  • Genes
  • Arthritis
  • Aging

Hammertoe Treatment

Hammertoes won’t improve without intervention, so it’s best to consult the professionals at Bayshore Podiatry, located in Tampa, FL by scheduling an appointment.

Several treatment options vary according to how severe the hammertoe is, from shoe padding and inserts to cortisone injections. The physician may also recommend foot exercises to help restore muscle balance. If the hammertoe isn’t resolved with the above methods, surgery may be needed.

For more serious cases in which the toes have become inflexible and rigid, surgery may be suggested. During the operation, the toe would receive an incision to relieve pressure on the tendons. A re-alignment of the tendons may then be performed by removing small pieces of bone to straighten the toe. In some cases, the insertion of pins is needed to keep the bones in the proper position as the toe heals. The patient is usually allowed to return home on the same day as the surgery.

If surgery is performed to repair a hammertoe, following the postoperative directions of your doctor is essential. Directions may include several stretches, picking up marbles with your toes, or attempting to crumple a towel placed flat against your feet. Wear shoes that have low heels and a wide amount of toe space to maintain comfort.

Closed-toe shoes and high heels should be avoided. Shoes with laces allow the wearer to adjust how fitted he or she may want the shoes to be and allow for greater comfort. To provide adequate space for your toes, select shoes that have a minimum of one-half inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the inside of the shoe. This will also relieve pressure on your toes and prevent future hammertoes from forming.

Other preventative measures that can be taken include going shopping for new shoes in the middle of the day. Your feet are the smallest in the morning and swell as the day progresses. Trying on and purchasing new shoes midday will give you the most reliable size. Be sure to check that the shoes you purchase are both the same size. If possible, ask the store to stretch out the shoes at their painful points to allow for optimum comfort.  

If you are experiencing bends in the joints of your toes or other symptoms of hammertoes, trust your feet with the experts at Bayshore Podiatry located in Tampa, FL.  They will provide you with a proper diagnosis and recommended treatment plan to get you on the path to pain-free feet!

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