Hammertoes are an unnatural bending upward of the joints in the smaller toes causing the toe to resemble and upside down V. This puts pressure on the toe and the center of the foot, especially when wearing shoes, which can lead to pain in the ball of the foot, calluses and cramps. Like most foot conditions, hammertoes will get worse over time, so it’s important to seek treatment to avoid long-term deformity.
While several factors can contribute to hammertoes like arthritis, heredity and old age, most often they can be traced back to poor shoe choices. When you continually wear shoes that are too tight, too short or overly pointy, your toes have to compensate for the lack of space. If they can’t go down or out, their only choice is up. Not surprisingly, hammertoes are much more common among women.
The good news is that your body will usually send several warnings that hammertoes are forming. Your toes might start hurting when you put shoes on. Or you’ll notice corns, calluses or sometimes even sores forming from the friction your shoes cause. Often, this will lead to redness, inflammation and pain. As the deformity progresses, the toes will start to point upward at the joint, even when you’re not wearing shoes. If you notice any of these symptoms, call our office for an appointment. We can usually reverse the damage and deformity if we catch it in time.
When you come to our office, we’ll carefully examine your feet and may take x-rays to see how much damage has been done. Then we have several options for treating hammertoes, depending on the severity:
- Changing your shoes to give your toes a little more room to move around
- Orthotic devices
- Exercise and stretching
- Anti-inflammatory medications or injections to relieve the pain and inflammation
Surgery may be necessary in more advanced cases, especially if the hammertoe has become rigid.
Whether you are just starting to see the signs of hammertoes or your toes have already become bent upward, it’s important to see a doctor to stop the progression of this painful condition to avoid further deformity. Call our office to make an appointment.