Hammers are best known for pounding nails into wood, turning simple supplies into grandiose mansions, fishing boats, and even tiny birdhouses. What you might not know is that hammers can also end up on your feet, if you’re not careful, in the form of hammertoes.
The Blueprint for Hammertoes
The second, third, or fourth toe can develop this deformity and start to bend up at the middle joint. After a while, the toe is bent enough that it resembles a hammer, hence the name. The area might be flexible for a while. However, if left untreated, it can turn rigid and stiff.
You might notice corns, which are hard calluses, where the shoe rubs on the top of the deformity. Other symptoms include difficulty wearing shoes and pain with movement of the toe.
What Built This Problem?
Shoe choice is a big contributing factor to this problem and is also one of the only ways to practice prevention. Women are more at risk than men, because high heels can cause the condition. What happens, over time, is that the toes muscles can no longer straighten themselves out when they’re squashed to the front of the high-heeled shoe. Your toes can also be forced into a bent position if you wear narrow and pointy-toed shoes like dress shoes and flats.
If you have nerve damage such as impending neuropathy, muscle imbalances, or a previous injury to the toe, you could be more at risk. A second toe that’s longer than your big toe also increases your chances. Another risk is age: as you get older, your risk for developing hammertoes increases due to instability.
Nail Down the Best Treatment
Try to give your toes some space. If that’s means wearing sandals because all of your other shoes cram your toes, that’s fine. Having enough room is vital in preventing this deformity. When you’re shopping for a new pair, pick shoes that have a wide toe box. That way, the front of your foot isn’t squishing together. Always buy your shoes at the end of the day when your feet are swollen. Make sure the shoe extends a half inch longer than your longest digit. Consider your corns, too. Buy a pair with a deep toe box so nothing’s hitting the top of your shoe.
Orthotics, shoe inserts, and corn pads are another way to minimize pressure and redistribute where it is placed. We can make custom orthotics for you—right in our office! If you make an appointment with us, we can also suggest some stretches. For example, you can try picking up small items, like Legos or marbles, with your feet.
Surgery is an option we might talk with you about. However, that’s only after the conservative treatments have been tried and failed. Some procedures for hammertoes involve removal of the tendon while others remove pieces of bone.
Bring the hammer down on hammertoes and get treatment at McDowell Orthopedics & Podiatry Group. You can reach our office in Carmichael, CA, at (916) 961-3434 to make an appointment. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest!
Photo Credit: Hans Braximier