Hammertoes are a common foot deformity that affects the middle joint of the toe, causing it to bend downward, resembling a hammer. This condition can be painful and uncomfortable, making it difficult to walk or wear shoes properly. So, it's essential to visit a medical foot care center at the first sign of hammertoes. Read on to learn more about this foot deformity.
What Are the Types of Hammertoes?
Hammertoes are categorized into two types, depending on their level of mobility and severity. They can be flexible or rigid. Flexible hammertoes are those that are still movable and can be manually straightened. As these can become rigid over time, prompt treatment is crucial.
Meanwhile, rigid hammertoes are more severe than flexible ones, as the tendons and soft tissues are fixed and immovable. This type of hammertoe typically requires surgical intervention.
What Causes Hammertoes?
There are many reasons hammertoes might develop, including muscle and tendon imbalance in the toe that causes it to bend unnaturally. Other causes of this foot deformity include:
- Genetics - Hammertoes may be caused by genetic predispositions. So, if some of your family members have this foot condition, you are more likely to get it as well. Besides that, being born with flat feet or high arches increases your risk of developing hammertoes.
- Ill-Fitting Shoes - Wearing poorly fitting shoes, particularly those with narrow toe boxes or high heels, can put excess pressure on your toes and joints. Because of this, you are more likely to develop hammertoes.
- Neuromuscular Diseases - Medical conditions, like arthritis and diabetes, can cause stiff and sore joints and make you more susceptible to foot conditions, like ulcers and infections. These factors can contribute to the development of deformities, like hammertoes.
What Are the Symptoms of Hammertoes?
While some people may not experience symptoms with hammertoes, others may feel mild to severe pain and discomfort. Additional symptoms of this foot condition include:
- Corns and calluses
- Difficulty walking
- Limited foot and toe mobility
- A bent or claw-like appearance
- Inflammation and redness
- Open sores
How Are Hammertoes Treated?
There are several treatment options available to manage hammertoes depending on the severity and symptoms. Here are some of them:
- Non-surgical Interventions
In the early stages of flexible hammertoes, non-invasive measures may be enough to manage your condition. Wearing well-fitting shoes with a roomy toe box and using custom orthotic inserts can help alleviate symptoms and prevent further progression.
If you're experiencing significant pain, over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed by your doctor. This will help alleviate discomfort associated with hammertoes.
- Padding and Splinting
Toe pads or cushions can be used to relieve pressure and reduce friction on corns and calluses caused by hammertoes. Depending on your condition, splinting or taping techniques may also help straighten the toe and alleviate symptoms.
Specific toe exercises, recommended by a podiatrist or physical therapist, can help strengthen and stretch the toe muscles. Doing so helps provide pain relief and improve mobility that's been affected by hammertoes.
If non-invasive treatments are proven ineffective or if your hammertoes are severe, surgical intervention may be considered. Hammertoe surgery can correct the deformity by releasing tight tendons, repositioning bones, and straightening the affected toe.
How Can You Prevent Hammertoes?
While hammertoes may not always be preventable, there are many ways you can reduce your risks of developing this foot deformity. Here are some tips to remember:
- Wear comfortable shoes that provide ample space for the toes to move freely, such as those with a wide toe box, low heels, and good arch support.
- Practice proper foot hygiene and examine your feet regularly to promptly address any signs and symptoms of foot abnormalities or other conditions.
- Perform toe exercises and stretches regularly to keep the muscles and tendons in the toes flexible and strong.
- If you have any underlying medical conditions like arthritis, work closely with your healthcare provider to manage them effectively and minimize their impact on your feet.
Visit a Medical Foot Care Center Today
Hammertoes are a common foot deformity that can cause discomfort and affect your mobility. By learning about its types, causes, symptoms, and treatment options, you can better manage this condition and prevent it from worsening. Contact a trusted podiatrist if you experience any signs and symptoms of hammertoes or other foot disorders.