WHAT ARE HAMMERTOES?
Hammertoe is a bending in one or more joints (knuckles) of the small toes. Because of the deformity that this causes, the tops of the toes press against shoes and can hurt. The toes can also be uncomfortable at the tip where they press into the floor or sole of the shoe.
Corns can form on the tops or tips of the toes causing pain. Corns are caused by friction between shoes and skin. One can get corns between toes as well when one toe bends into the adjacent toe.
Even without the formation of corns the toes may become painful from dislocation or arthritis of the involved joints.
Hammertoes start off flexible but usually progress over time.
If hammertoes are symptomatic while flexible, a minor procedure may be helpful. A simple change in shoe type may stop the progression. As time goes on the hammertoe may become rigid and a much more involved surgical procedure may be needed to reduce pain.
Many hammertoes are genetic. We get what our parents give us. Some hammertoes form due to muscle imbalance within the foot and legs.
Shoes that don’t fit properly can cause the toes into a bent position and over a period of time the toes remain in that position. Other causes of hammertoes are trauma as in broken or dislocated toes.
TREATMENT FOR HAMMERTOES
Treatments for hammertoes consist of surgical and nonsurgical remedies.
Treatment will be different for each individual. Every doctor has their own approach. This is the treatment that he or she feels has the best success for your type of hammertoe.
Simple trimming of corns is helpful, and for some patients this is the best and only procedure that should be performed. You shouldn’t attempt this yourself because a minor cut in the foot may lead to infection. Padding around a corn can be helpful and should be tried while also finding shoes that fit properly.
Most people buy their shoes because of price or style. Sometimes our feet can’t be placed in the styles we like. I have a simple philosophy when buying my shoes. I make sure the soles are stiff and shaped similar to the bottom of my foot. Most people have an arch; therefore, your shoe should also have an arch. The more your shoes bend across the ball of your feet, the more your toes will bend as you push against the ground. A one to 2 inch heel is better than a completely flat shoe.
Sometimes an arch support can help stop the progression of hammertoes by changing the mechanics of walking. On very rare occasions cortisone injections may be needed to reduce pain and swelling especially for an arthritic hammertoe.
The best time to fix a hammertoe surgically is never; therefore, try to stop the progression with conservative care.
Unfortunately, most people read this after their hammertoes have progressed to the point of constant pain. These are the patients requiring surgery. This short informative blog is not the place to discuss the many types of surgical treatments for hammertoes. Because there are so many different treatments, I suggest you get a few opinions before heading into an operating room. Because recovery can be a few days to a few months depending on your type of hammertoes; I wouldn’t take the advice of your neighbor that may have had the minimal or maximum procedure. You have to be evaluated by a foot and ankle specialist. The doctor will tell you the degree of difficulty regarding your treatment and suggest the best options.
Just remember, if you got hammertoes from your ancestors it’s not your fault but; if you got them from your shoes, well that is something you can do something about!