If your toes are starting to look a little bent or crooked, the first symptom you experience might be embarrassment. But without proper treatment, it won’t be the last. Hammertoes are a progressive deformity, meaning they get worse over time. Eventually, the joints may become stiff and rigid, and the tops of toes may rub painfully inside your shoes, leading to blisters, corns, and constant irritation.
Fortunately, Dr. Daniel Walters provides a variety of treatment options for this painful, frustrating foot deformity. Read on to learn more about hammertoes, and how we can fix them.
The Lifecycle of a Curling, Crooked Toe
Hammertoes are caused by an imbalance in strength between the muscles and tendons responsible for flexing and straightening the toe. When this happens, the middle joint of the toe becomes “stuck” in a bent position.
This imbalance could develop as a result of genetics, such as a structural foot flaw or a neurological condition. But it could also arise due to environmental factors, such as wearing pointed shoes or high heels, traumatic injuries to the toe, or the wear and tear of arthritis over time. Women are significantly more likely to develop hammertoes than men.
Hammertoes start out mild, but worsen over time without treatment. There are two main stages:
- Flexible hammertoes can still be straightened using your hands, because the joints themselves are still mobile and functional.
- Rigid hammertoes are more solidly locked into place. The muscle and tendon imbalance has become so extreme that the joint itself is pulled out of alignment and can no longer move.
As the hammertoe progresses, symptoms continue to worsen. The most common problems include:
- Pain and irritation from friction
- The development of corns and calluses on the tops and tips of toes
- Open sores
- Difficulty fitting into shoes
- Difficulty walking comfortably
Hammertoe Pain? We Can Fix That
If your toes are looking a little bent, don’t wait until you can barely fit into your shoes or start experiencing severe pain or sores. Early intervention gives you the greatest number and variety of paths for successful treatment.
Our preference is to relieve your pain conservatively, and this is often possible in the early stages when the hammertoe is still flexible. Non-surgical care will not straighten your toe, unfortunately. However, the primary goal is to keep the hammertoe from progressing to the point where painful symptoms emerge.
Conservative options include:
- Switching to larger, more comfortable shoes
- Placing nonmedicated pads on toes to shield them from friction
- Fitting prefabricated or custom orthotics to relieve pressure on the toes and correct any biomechanical issues that may be contributing to the problem
- Using medications for pain
- Stretching and exercising toes to strengthen supporting tissues and prevent muscle imbalances from worsening
If hammertoes have progressed to the rigid stage, often surgery will be required. Even though we view surgery as a last resort, we are happy to provide this service to our patients when necessary. Dr. Daniel Walters is an expert in minimally invasive surgical techniques, which can be used to minimize the size of the incision needed, reduce the risk of complications, eliminate the need for internal hardware such as pins or screws, and decrease the recovery time. More traditional surgeries can also be provided for those who do not qualify for a minimally invasive procedure.
We pride ourselves on our comprehensive treatment options for hammertoes, and strive to offer you the best and simplest possible solution to your problem, so you can be on your feet and on your way. To schedule an appointment with us in Garfield Ridge, Chicago, please call (773) 586-0050 or request an appointment online.