Hammertoes, much like bunions, are a deformity caused by an instability in the joints of the toes.
While it is easier to manage and treat hammertoes the earlier that they are discovered, much can still be done for cases that are advanced or have been present for many years – and that often includes non-surgical treatments!
There is no good reason to delay providing hammertoes the treatment they need. In fact, the condition will never improve on its own, and will only tend to become progressively worse without intervention.
What Is A Hammertoe?
A “hammertoe” is the common term for when one of the four “little” toes on either foot takes on a contracted and bent position at the middle joint during rest. This most commonly occurs in the second toe.
A similar condition, known as “mallet toe,” occurs when the bend is found at the joint closest to the tip of the toe.
In the early stages, the joint may remain flexible. It will still be simple to push the toe back into a proper position. You might not have any noticeable pain or other symptoms getting in the way of your daily life.
As the condition progresses, however, the joint can become more rigid and stiff. It can begin to cause more pain, make wearing shoes more problematic, and lead to calluses or sores where the top of your toe rubs against the inside of your footwear.
What Causes a Hammertoe?
The typical cause of a hammertoe is an imbalance in the muscle and tendon pairs that control the toe.
Under standard conditions, muscles and tendons are balanced, letting you bend and flex your toe normally. But should one set become “stronger” than another, they can start pulling the toe into a flexed position. The “weaker” pair will be unable to bring it back into a standard resting position.
Muscle and tendon pairs can become imbalanced for several reasons:
- An inherited imbalance in foot shape or structure. Certain foot structures, such as having a second toe longer than the big toe, can increase one’s risk of hammertoes. You might also have a foot shape or gait that naturally shifts excess pressure to the front of your foot, increasing the chances for instability.
- Improper footwear choices. Shoes with small or tight toe boxes that compress the toes might contribute to instability. So can high heels and other footwear that shifts your body weight toward the front of the feet.
- Trauma. Jamming, stubbing, and other impact injuries to the toes can sometimes be enough to begin destabilizing a joint. A hammertoe may not appear until years later.
How to Treat Hammertoes
Non-surgical options for treating and managing hammertoe symptoms are often preferable. If we can effectively address your symptoms and either greatly slow or stop the progression of the deformity, that frequently counts as a win.
Non-surgical treatments for hammertoes can include:
- Changing to more accommodating and supportive footwear.
- The use of custom orthotics to shift excess pressure away from the front of the feet.
- Padding to protect from corns, blisters, or sores caused by friction.
- The use of toe spacers, separators, or taping to keep a hammertoe in a less obtrusive position (if the hammertoe is still flexible).
- Stretches and exercises to help condition muscles and tendons, as well as maintain or improve flexibility in the joint.
In some cases, conservative treatments will not be enough to provide the relief we need. Surgery may then need to be considered.
Recommended surgical procedures for hammertoes will greatly depend on various factors, including the severity of the condition and a patient’s medical history, and their specific needs.
In every case, we will fully discuss all treatment options with you and answer any questions you may have. We want to ensure you have all the information you need before choosing how you wish to move forward with your care.
Do Not Wait for A Hammertoe to Get Worse
If there’s one thing to remember about hammertoe treatment, it’s this: The sooner you seek help, the better your chances are of avoiding or at least delaying the need for surgery. You will also likely save yourself much more pain and trouble in the future.
Schedule an appointment with Lakes Foot and Ankle Associates by calling our Commerce Township office or by filling out our online contact form. We’ll always be happy to help you and your family overcome the foot and ankle issues that may be holding you back.
It's Time To Leave Foot & Ankle Pain Behind!
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9640 Commerce Rd Suite 102 Commerce Township, MI 48382
|Monday||8:30am – 5:00pm|
|Tuesday||9:00am – 5:00pm|
|Wednesday||8:30am – 5:00pm|
|Thursday||9:00am – 6:00pm|
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