“My toes hurt when I wear dress or high heeled shoes.” This is one of the most common complaints heard in our office, and if you fit this description the diagnosis is most likely a hammertoe. A hammertoe is a permanent curvature or bend to the joints of the toes, most commonly seen in the second, third, fourth and fifth toes. This can make fitting your feet into certain shoes difficult and painful.
A hammertoe is frequently a hereditary deformity, which is progressive and worsens over time. It is caused by an imbalance in the muscles and tendons which stabilize and support our toes when we walk. The initial complaint from patients is usually pain that is caused from a certain type of shoe gear.
The hammertoe will frequently worsen over time, which will lead to stiffness and arthritis of the affected toe and pain from increased pressure being placed on the ball of the foot.
The initial conservative treatment options for hammertoes are:
1) Shoe Gear Modification-shoes do not cause hammertoes to develop, but poor fitting shoe gear can be an aggravating factor. Shoes with a wider and deeper toe box and lower heel height can alleviate pain associated with hammertoes.
2) Stretching- when hammertoes begin they are usually flexible and the affected toe can easily be placed in a straight position. When this is the case a stretching product, such as yoga toes, can be helpful to maintain flexibility and improve position of the hammertoe.
3) Padding- devices to alleviate pressure and friction may be helpful
4) Skin- softening agents and filing of associated corns with a pumice stone or foot file may be helpful
5) An In Office Procedure- called a tenotomy can help the toe to sit in a flatter, straighter position with minimal down time and recovery involved. For more severe, long standing hammertoes, where the affected toe is rigid and no longer able to be straightened easily, a surgical procedure may be required.
If you are unsure if you are suffering from hammertoes come in for a foot consultation and we will diagnose and treat your feet so you will be back on them in no time!