Posts for tag: mallet toe
Your toes are permanent roommates and if you’ve ever had a roommate, you know that people who live in close proximity need their space. Your toes are no different! When you crowd your toes by wearing pointed-toe shoes, high heels that put pressure on the front of the toes, or any shoe with a narrow toe box, it can lead to a hammertoe. What is a hammertoe? I’m glad you asked…
A hammertoe is an abnormal bend in the middle joint of a toe. It most often occurs in the second, third, and fourth toes. When your toes are curled under for extended periods of time, they begin to hold that shape. It may become painful to stretch or manipulate the toe and secondary issues such as blisters, corns, and calluses can arise. Improperly fitting shoes are a huge factor in the development of hammertoes. They are also more likely to develop in toes that have experienced a trauma, such as a bad break, jam, or stub. There are some genetic risk factors too, so let your podiatrist know if you have a family history of hammertoes (even if you haven’t developed one yourself). Arthritis and muscle imbalances are also causes of hammertoes.
READ MORE: Hammertoes
Women are more susceptible than men and the chances of developing this condition increase as you age. If your second toe is longer than your big toe, you will need to pay particular attention to the way your shoes fit and give extra space. Your shoes may also become uncomfortable due to corns or calluses that form on the bump of the toe. Use a pumice stone to reduce calluses and put a silicone or moleskin pad on the toe to avoid further rubbing.
Time is of the essence with a hammertoe. If treatment begins as soon as the toe begins to bend (when it’s still moveable), the condition can often be halted with simple methods such as toe exercises, roomier shoes, toe splints, or orthotics. If you allow your hammertoe to go untreated until it is fixed into position, which is what about 50% of our patients do, a surgical solution may be your only option. Your podiatrist might release or reposition the tendons and ligaments holding the toe curled or use pins and bone fusions to correct the bend.
The best thing you can do for your feet is to wear the proper shoes and make an appointment with the FAAWC immediately when you notice a hammertoe developing. We’re here to help.
READ MORE: Quick Tips for the Shoe Store
It’s strange that after all these years of blogging, we haven’t focused on one of the most common foot illnesses: hammertoes. When I say hammertoe, pictures of burly men hopping about and cursing after hitting themselves with a hammer comes to mind, but a hammertoe has nothing to do with hammers at all – except for the shape. A hammertoe is an abnormal bend in the middle joint of…you guessed it, your toes.
The characteristic “hammer” shape of the bent toe, usually the second, third, or fourth toe, can identify this condition. There is also a variation of this deformity called a mallet toe, which is a bend in the first joint of the toe (closest to the toenail). Essentially it looks like you have curled up a toe or two permanently. And unfortunately, unless the cause is remedied, it won’t uncurl. There are three main causes of hammertoes: the wrong shoes, sudden trauma, or a muscle imbalance.
Let’s face it, women are more likely to cram their feet into uncomfortable shoes for the sake of fun or fashion, which means women are also more likely than men to develop hammertoes. Just as waves crashing against rock slowly rub the stone down over time, so too will the wrong shoes forces your toes out of alignment, causing unpleasant side effects and potentially permanent damage. Toes that become bunched up inside tight or ill-fitting shoes can still give trouble, even when you switch to better shoes. Corns and calluses formed by constant friction make for unpleasant walking companions. Those with Morton’s Toe (a second toe that is longer than your first toe) need to be especially careful when choosing shoes as they are at increased risk of developing a hammertoe.
It seems obvious to say that direct trauma to a toe may deform it, but it takes a certain type of trauma to create a hammertoe. Those traumas include stubbing, jamming, or breaking your toe. It generally doesn’t just break into the perfect hammertoe shape though. Often these injuries can cause lasting bone deformity or lead to changes in toe flexibility or strength all of which can ultimately lead to a hammertoe.
Technically, all hammertoes are a result of a muscle imbalance. When an outside force (e.g. your shoes) pushes your toes in one direction or another, the muscles and tendons will stretch and contract to adapt to the shape. If they adapt too much and become loose or tight, this imbalance will remain long after you take your shoes off.These muscle imbalances may also be the result of a preexisting condition such as arthritis or be exacerbated by unrelated conditions like diabetes.
In the end, hammertoes are a relatively straightforward condition; things bend and stretch and if they are stretched one way too long it leads to deformity, thus, a hammertoe. Get these fixed as soon as you see them developing! If caught in the early stages, hammertoes may be fixed with protective padding, special taping techniques, custom orthotics, shoe and lifestyle changes, and exercise. If the hammertoe progresses too far, surgery may be the only option. Don’t let it get that far. See your podiatrist today about your hammertoes!