4 Things you Need to Know about Hammertoe

On a daily basis your feet must get you up and down stairs, across miles of your workplace, drive your car, and balance your body. Your feet are taken for granted and abused regularly, so when something like hammertoe develops, it can put a crimp in your lifestyle. Here’s what your orthopedic doctor wants you to know about hammertoe.

What Causes Hammertoe?

Your toes have a complex system of muscles and ligaments working together to flex, curl, and stretch. Hammertoe develops when that system fails, and a toe joint locks into a bent position. Shoes that fit poorly and squeeze toes together are a common culprit, which is why more women than men develop hammertoe. Arthritic patients may develop hammertoe as joint flexibility degrades and toes cannot straighten normally. Genetics also cause trouble if you were born with high or flat arches, since the toes must work harder for stability.

The Major Issues Caused by Hammertoe

A constantly bent toe changes the way your feet perform. Not only may the hammertoe itself be painful, but the change in performance can cause pain in other parts of your foot, such as your remaining toes or the ball of your foot. Another big problem caused by hammertoe is additional friction between your shoe and the hammertoe, which could irritate your skin and cause corns to develop on the top of the toe.

How to Prevent Hammertoe

Wearing shoes that fit right and allow your toes to move freely is the easiest way to prevent hammertoe. An orthopedic doctor commonly sees hammertoe cases in women who wear high heels with pointy toes, since so much extra pressure is applied to the toes. Be sure your shoes allow room for your toes to stretch and do not force them into a bent position.

Have it Already? Fixing Hammertoe

The type of hammertoe you have usually dictates the method of correction your orthopedic doctor can use. Flexible hammertoe implies that the joint can still be moved, albeit with difficulty. These cases are addressed using padding, taping, and specialized inserts for your shoes. In cases of rigid hammertoe where the joint is frozen, surgery may be the only way to correct the problem.

Hammertoe is an uncomfortable condition but many times can be prevented. Talk to your orthopedic doctor for advice on keeping your feet healthy and happy for a lifetime.


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