Have your toes become crooked, or curled down over the years? Are you getting pain on the tops of your toes with shoe pressure? Are you feeling pain at the end of your toes or between them? Unfortunately, you may be developing hammertoes. Hammertoes is a common condition where your toes have become curled down, or turned in, one direction or another.
If this sounds like your feet, you are not alone. Hammertoes are one of the most common types of foot problems. And while they tend to get worse over time, they can affect people of all ages.
Most hammertoes occur because of a slight muscle imbalance. Consequently, this may cause certain muscles to pull the toes into positions where they shouldn’t be. This condition is progressive. The toes may bend, but still be flexible, as is common in children. However, over time, the toes get used to sitting in the wrong position. Eventually, they can become semi-rigid or rigid hammertoe deformities. Finally, you can’t even straighten them out if you tried.
Once you have hammertoes, it’s almost impossible to straighten them out again without surgery. But having hammertoes doesn’t necessarily mean that you need surgery. Many people live their entire lives without pain from hammertoes, and don’t even know that they have them! Others may need to wear comfortable shoes to stay pain-free, but it doesn’t affect their lifestyle.
We will always recommend starting out with conservative treatments. The goal will be to make you comfortable and ease any pain. Wear shoes that don’t put pressure on the toes; wider shoes, shoes deeper in the toe box, or even open shoes. Additionally, there are different types of pads that can separate the toes or provide a cushion to the toes.
If you have developed thickened skin or corns as a result of the hammertoe, keeping them filed down will help. You may carefully do this yourself. Or, you may consider seeing a podiatrist periodically to help keep you comfortable.
When conservative care is not enough to keep you comfortable, surgical correction may be necessary to straighten the toes. This type of surgery is outpatient. Typically you can walk right away, commonly in a surgical shoe or boot for several weeks.
Since we know that hammertoes are usually the result of a muscle imbalance, correcting that muscle imbalance can help stop, or at least slow down, the progression of the hammertoe deformity. This is why it’s recommended that custom orthotics be worn in the shoes for patients who have developed hammertoes that are not yet painful. The orthotic will maintain the right support for your feet. Additionally, it will eliminate the muscle imbalance that has caused the hammertoes to worsen over the years. Even after surgically straightening the toes, the overall cause of the deformity will still be present. The deformity will need to be addressed to help prevent the recurrence of the hammertoes. Wearing custom orthotics will help keep the toes straight!
Come see us at Kansas City Foot and Ankle if you’re developing hammertoes so we can discuss options to keep you comfortable, prevent the condition from getting worse, or if necessary, surgically correct your hammertoes to get you back to your active lifestyle quickly and comfortably.