Hammertoe is a common and painful condition. It can make walking, putting on shoes, or doing simple tasks a chore. In this blog, Kerry E. Berg, DPM, of Intermountain Foot & Ankle, explains what hammertoe is, what causes it, and how it can be treated.
Hammertoe is caused by an imbalance in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of a toe. With hammertoe, the affected toe curls downward, with the middle joint forming the peak. The middle three toes are the most likely toes to be affected.
Very few people are born with hammertoe. Instead, it usually develops over time. However, there is a genetic component, meaning that if a parent has the condition, you’re more likely to develop it.
Shoes are a major culprit in the development of hammertoe. The types of shoes that are most likely to lead to the condition are those that pinch your toes together. Tight shoes — especially high heels — can put too much stress on toes. And this pressure can lead to an imbalance in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments and therefore increase the risk of hammertoe.
Other conditions associated with developing hammertoe include the following:
Hammertoe can also cause corns or calluses to form on your toes, which can become very painful. To properly diagnose hammertoe, Dr. Berg will typically perform an X-ray of your feet.
As it is with anything, prevention is the best medicine. Prevention includes wearing shoes with more room in the toe area and heels no higher than an inch. However, if you have the condition, there are a number of options you can use to treat it.
If the condition is minor, you may be able to help relieve pain by performing simple stretches, such as flexing your toes and bending them back. By stretching your toes, you may be able to relieve tension and strengthen your toe joints.
If at-home treatments aren’t enough to relieve the pain, Dr. Berg may offer some of the following treatments:
Surgery is generally a last resort after other treatments have failed. However, surgery is usually relatively uncomplicated and is performed on an outpatient basis, so you can go home the same day.
If you have hammertoe and want treatment, or if you want to see if you have the condition, book an appointment online or over the phone with Intermountain Foot & Ankle Associates today.