Posts for tag: Hammertoes
A hammertoe is a common foot deformity that affects the middle joint of the smaller toes. As a result, this causes the toes to bend downward. Since this bend causes the joint to stick out this can put more pressure on the affected joints when wearing shoes, which can also make the deformity worse over time. As with most foot deformities a hammertoe will start out minor and continue to progress over time if left untreated.
During the earlier stages you may not notice much pain and discomfort. In fact the only way you may be able to tell that you have a hammertoe is by examining the foot and noticing that the small toes bend downward like a claw. Of course, at this stage the deformed joint is still flexible enough to be straightened out.
However, if the deformity progresses this can cause the joint to become rigid, which won’t respond effectively to simple conservative treatments. As you might imagine, the sooner you see a podiatrist to treat your hammertoe the better. Early intervention is key, as a hammertoe will not get better without the proper care.
Hammertoes are often the result of an imbalance in the muscle or tendon of the foot. Over time, this leads to structural changes in the foot. Genetics may also play a role in whether your feet are at risk for this deformity. A hammertoe can also be made worse by wearing shoes that are too tight and put too much pressure on the toes.
Along with the structural changes that occur with hammertoes it’s also common to experience redness, inflammation or the development of a corn or callus on the toe. If you are noticing symptoms of a hammertoe see your podiatrist for an evaluation. A simple physical exam is usually all that’s needed to diagnose a hammertoe; however, sometimes an x-ray will be performed in order to determine the extent of the deformity.
If you are dealing with a flexible hammertoe, more often than not simple nonsurgical treatment options are all that’s needed. Following simple treatment options and care can prevent the hammertoes from becoming rigid or painful. Some nonsurgical treatment options include:
- Wearing the appropriate footwear. This means wearing shoes that aren’t pointy or have high heels, which can put more pressure on the toes.
- Placing custom orthotics into your shoes, which can ease discomfort and prevent pain resulting in a muscular imbalance.
- Taking over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, which can reduce both pain and inflammation.
- Splinting the toe or toes to keep them straight, which can also reduce stiffness, inflammation and pain.
- Applying protective non-medicated padding over the top of the toe to prevent a corn or callus from developing.
If your hammertoe is painful or rigid then you may need to discuss whether surgery is the best option for alleviating your symptom and correcting the deformity. If you are dealing with a hammertoe turn to a foot specialist for help.
Do your smaller toes look like little hammers or mallets? If so, you may have an acquired deformity of the foot called hammertoes. Luckily, your podiatrists here at Oakton Foot and Ankle Center, Dr. Steven Vetter and Dr. Jugal Dharia, have plenty of experience in treating this condition! Read on to learn how our Fairfax, VA, office can resolve the problem.
How do hammertoes form?
Defined by a characteristic contracture and stiffening of the smaller toes, this condition may arise from blunt force trauma; however, it more often occurs gradually over time. Contributing to the odd shape, pain, corns, calluses, and sores of hammertoes are factors such as:
- Wearing tight, narrow shoes and high heels
- Heredity (the deformity runs in families)
- Poor circulation
- An unusually high arch
- Imbalances in gait (or how you walk)
- Age plays a role as well, particularly if other deformities, such as bunions, exist
How your podiatrist can help
Accurate diagnosis and treatment is key to limiting the progression of hammertoes. During a consultation at our Fairfax office, Dr. Vetter or Dr. Dharia will inspect your foot and how you walk. You will also be asked about your symptoms and what worsens or alleviates them. Finally, he'll take some X-rays to assess the internal structure of your foot.
With a confirmed hammertoe diagnosis, your podiatrist may recommend several remedial strategies. Surgery is an option, too, but only if the hammertoe is very advanced and cannot be addressed by these simpler interventions:
- Wearing low-heeled, comfortable shoes with proper arch support and room in the toes
- Padding the hammertoe (moleskin is a frequent choice)
- Using custom-made shoe orthotics (inserts) to balance muscles, tendons, and ligaments and to correct gait issues such as overpronation
- Removing or padding calluses or corns on the toe
- Corticosteroid injections
- Taking over the counter ibuprofen to lessen pain and relieve inflammation
- Exercising (stretching your feet and toes morning and evening)
- Toe splints
Find out more
If you need relief from your hammertoes, phone our Fairfax office today for a consultation with Dr. Vetter or Dr. Dharia: (703) 352-8888.
When most people think about foot deformities they most often think about bunions; however, hammertoes are just as common. This unassuming deformity comes about gradually, so you may not even notice it until it’s too late. “What is a hammertoe?” You might be wondering. A hammertoe affects the middle joint of a toe (often the smaller toes), causing the toe to bend downward. In severe cases, a hammertoe will look almost claw-like.
There are two kinds of hammertoes: flexible and rigid. As you might imagine, a flexible hammertoe is one in which you can still straighten the toe out. If you aren’t able to straighten the affected toe then this is a rigid hammertoe. A flexible hammertoe isn’t as serious as a rigid one; however, it’s important that you take care of your hammertoe to make sure that it doesn’t get worse.
While there is no way to cure a hammertoe there are simple measures you can take to prevent it from progressing. First and foremost, you need to take a look at the shoes you are wearing and make sure that they aren’t too tight. When you slip your feet into your shoes, does it cause your toes to bunch up against one another? If so then this could make your hammertoe worse.
Instead, opt for shoes with an ample toe box, which will allow your toes to wiggle and move around freely. If you have a structural imbalance within the foot this can leave you prone to foot problems such as hammertoes and bunions. To correct this imbalance, talk to your foot doctor about getting custom orthotics (shoe inserts), which can be placed into your shoes to help provide cushioning, support, and shock absorption for your feet.
If pain or stiffness does rear its ugly head you can choose to take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen, which can tackle both pain and inflammation in one fell swoop, or you can place a towel-wrapped ice pack (never put ice directly on the skin, as it can cause severe burns) over the area for several minutes.
Just as you can buy pads to cover a bunion or callus, you can also buy a non-medicated protective pad to cover over a hammertoe. Since the deformed toe joint juts out this can leave the toe prone to calluses, which can cause pain when wearing shoes. To prevent a callus from forming, you can apply a protective pad over the deformed toe joint before putting on shoes.
Of course, if you are dealing with significant or frequent pain, or if the hammertoe is rigid, then you will want to turn to a podiatric specialist. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended to correct the disfigured joint.