Hammertoes are one of the most common foot deformities, affecting millions of Americans. Without treatment, hammertoes can cause corns, calluses, and problems with how you walk, not to mention the difficulty you can have trying to find shoes that fit properly.
Hammertoes happen when the muscles and ligaments that support the toe joints weaken and stiffen, pulling the toe into an unnaturally bent shape, similar to the claw of a hammer. Unlike bunions that affect only the big toe, hammertoes happen in the second, third, fourth, and fifth (little) toes.
We identify the following six ways you can find relief:
One of the simplest ways to relieve the pain of hammertoes is to select shoes with ample space in the toe area. Shoes with narrow toes crowd your toes and force them into unnatural, cramped positions. Wider-toed shoes give your toes room to be comfortable and “spread out” into their natural shape.
Massaging the toe and gentle stretching helps restore flexibility to tight, stiff muscles and tendons. When performed regularly, stretching can help “fix” a hammertoe in its early stages, especially when combined with splinting or taping.
Splinting uses a rigid splint to help hold the toe in the correct position. Because of its inflexible nature, splinting is typically used overnight while you sleep.
An alternative to splinting, padding, and taping provides cushioning for the toe, while tape helps hold the toe in an unbent position.
Hammertoes affect the toe joint and its supportive tissues, so it’s not surprising they’re associated with discomfort. Over-the-counter medicines help counteract pain and inflammation and can be especially effective when combined with another therapy, like stretching or splinting.
Custom orthotics are special shoe inserts designed to address a multitude of foot problems, including hammertoes. Orthotics take the pressure off the bent toe, supporting it to regain its natural shape. Unlike over-the-counter inserts, custom orthotics are unique to you, designed and crafted based on your foot shape, gait, and other factors for optimal results.
Conservative hammertoe treatment works best in the early stages of the toe’s deformity while the muscles and tendons are still flexible. If treatment gets delayed, the tissues stiffen, and the joint becomes immobile. At that stage, surgery is the only way to restore a natural shape to the toe.
Our team offers an array of treatments for hammertoes, including nonsurgical and surgical options. To learn how they can help you, book an appointment online or over the phone today with the team at Performance Foot & Ankle Specialists.