What Is a Hammertoe? And How Can a Podiatrist Be Helpful in Such Situations?

Hammertoes like their name suggests are toes that are bent or are in a crooked position. This happens when there are ligament or muscle imbalances that will affect the middle toe joint making it crooked. When you wear footwear, especially a shoe, it will rub against the top of your bent toe making it uncomfortable to walk.

Before you visit a podiatrist, you can try some home remedies like:

  • Wear shoes that are wide and not too tight for your toes to feel crowded
  • Avoid wearing heels that are more than 2mm
  • Wear shoes that are right for your activities
  • You get those non-medicated hammer toe pads that will fit around that toenail and relieve pressure
  • Give your toe a massage to relieve pain
  • Use ice packs to reduce swelling

What are the causes of hammertoes?

Several factors can cause these hammertoes such as:

  • When you wear shoes that are too tight or high heels, which can force the toes to bend.
  • If you have toes that are long enough then there are chances for it to get bent or squashed by tight and high heels
  • It is also found in people having flat feet and bunions
  • Some are likely to get it due to family history
  • Age is also one important factor where hammertoes are found in people who are aged, especially women
  • Sometimes an earlier trauma to your toe can also lead to these hammertoes.

What are the symptoms?

A person who has hammertoe will always have his one toe bent and will find it difficult to straighten it. Some other symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the toe that is affected
  • A callus or corn that will be found in the middle joint of the toe
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty in walking

How can a podiatrist help you?

Hammertoes are often caused on the smaller baby toes that are always curled up, unlike the other toes. The remaining three toes are also usually affected. Also, women are more prone to these hammertoes due to their footwear. In cases, where you have diabetes or poor blood circulation then you are at higher risk of infections and foot ulcers.

There are two types of hammertoes- one is rigid and the other flexible. It usually starts with being flexible when it is developed but turns out rigid if not treated on time. If you got a flexible one then you can still move the joints, but if you got a rigid one then the tendons in the toes will cause pressure on the joint to make it look twisted. In such cases, you will require surgery. 

Here comes the need for a podiatrist who will examine your toe and check for the level of deformity through an x-ray. Here is a list of procedures that can work for hammertoes:

  1. Medications that can reduce pain and inflammation
  2. Cortisone injections can reduce hammer toe pain.
  3. Custom-made shoes that can reduce the discomfort
  4. Metatarsal pads that can be placed in the shoe 
  5. Exercises 

What kind of surgery can be helpful?

There is one method of surgery that can help remove this small piece of bone that is responsible for this misalignment. However, if you have a severe problem then you will have to go for complicated surgery. 

Dr. SimaSoltani who is one of the best podiatrists in Irvine has been considering surgery for people who have got problems in their second, third, and fourth toe. She is having 20+ years of experience and is dedicated to improving the overall health of your foot. 

One more type of surgery is called the proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint fusion. In this method, the two bones are cut at the end and then wired together. This is a highly invasive surgery. 

Another new surgery includes rods and screws that are implanted into the toe permanently. This will hold the toe in a stable position. Many podiatrists also consider using less invasive methods like making incisions in the tissue rather than bones. There is also tenotomy, which includes cutting of the tendons. 

What are the risks and complications?

This condition is said to be progressive which means it gets worse with time. the common problems that you will have to face includes:

  • Pain
  • Imbalance while walking
  • There might be some skin changes due to corns, calluses, and blisters
  • You will face a reduced quality of life. 

The major complications that might occur after the surgery are numbness, stiffness, pain, and infection in that toe. It can also be possible to get the hammertoe back. Therefore, early treatments will always be beneficial to prevent any complications and surgery. 

To conclude, it is always better to prevent this problem by taking proper care of your feet. Wearing a comfortable shoe is the first thing that you need to do so that it doesn’t cause any restrictions to your toes. Avoid using high heels and pointed shoes which are narrow for your toes. With early signs, speak to your doctor so that he begins with the conservative treatment at the earliest.