Fri May 19, 2023
Do you think you may have Hammer Toes?
Are any of your toes permanently bent? If that is the case, you may indeed have Hammer Toes.
What Are Hammer Toes?
Hammer toes are a common foot deformity that cause the middle joint of the toe to bend in the shape of a hammer, hence its name. This condition can cause much discomfort and pain, as well as make it difficult to don certain types of footwear.
Hammer toes usually affect the second, third, or fourth toes. In rarer cases hammer toes can occur in the fifth toes (pink toe). We will examine the causes and symptoms of hammer toes, and then give a run down of preventative measures as well as solutions.
Causes of Hammer Toes
There are a variety of factors that lead to hammer toes. Here are some of the most common causes.
Muscle and Tendon Imbalances in the foot can oftentimes lead to hammer toe development. This occurs when certain muscles are stronger or tighter than others, causing the toe to bend and curl unnaturally. For example, tight calf muscles or weak toe muscles are contributing factors to this condition.
Foot Structure and Genetics
There are certain foot structures, such as high arches or flat feet, that can leave one prone to developing hammer toes. Long toe bones also increase the risk that you could develop a hammer toe. These structural abnormalities can alter the mechanics of the foot and lead to imbalances that contribute to toe deformities.
If you wear shoes that are too tight or constricting, you may put yourself at risk to develop hammer toes. You want to avoid shoes that force your toes into unnatural positions. This means to avoid wearing a size too small, that ends up pushing your toes against the toe cap. If you wear high heels, be mindful of how they position your toes.
Other Conditions (Bunions & High Arches)
Having bunions pose one of the biggest risk factors for developing a hammer toe. If you have bunions, and do not seek treatment for it, it can lead to further complications, which includes hammer toes.
High Arches in the feet also pose a risk for hammer toes. High arches place excessive pressure on your toes, which can lead to deformities like hammer toes.
Preventing Hammer Toes
You can put the power in your hands, or rather feet, by making sure to take proper preventative measures to reduce your risk for hammer toes.
Choose the Right Shoes
Opt for shoes with a wide toe box. It is better for your toes to have breathing room, than feel too squeezed or compressed. Make sure to wear supportive shoes.
It is important to select shoes with good arch support, as this will help maintain proper foot alignment and prevent too much strain being put on your toes.
Shoes with a low heel and good arch support can also help maintain proper foot alignment. You can also look into orthotics.
Stretching and Strengthening Exercises
Maintain a regular routine of exercises that stretch and strengthen your feet. Doing so can increase the strength of the muscles in your toes and also prevent the very imbalances that lead to hammer toes.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Excess weight can put an undue amount of pressure on the foot, which leads to the likelihood of hammer toes.
Treatment Methods for Hammer Toes
Will you need surgery if you have hammer toes?
In most cases, hammer toes can be effectively managed with non-surgical treatment methods. Non-surgical approaches are typically the first line of treatment and are often successful in relieving symptoms and preventing further progression of the deformity.
Non-Surgical Treatments for Hammer Toes:
There are a variety of non-surgical measures and treatment methods to relieve hammer toes. Such options include:
- Orthotic devices: Wearing custom-made shoe inserts or orthotics can help correct foot imbalances and alleviate symptoms. These devices provide support, cushioning, and help distribute pressure evenly across the foot.
- Footwear modifications: Using toe splints, cushions, or pads can help realign the toes and provide relief from pain and pressure.
- Physical therapy: Specific exercises and stretches prescribed by a physical therapist can strengthen the foot muscles and improve flexibility.
- Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation. Common NSAIDs include ibuprofen and aspirin.
Surgical Treatments for Hammer Toes:
Surgical options aim to straighten the affected toes, relieve pain, and restore proper alignment. The specific surgical procedure depends on factors such as the severity of the deformity, the involvement of other structures, and individual patient considerations.
Surgery will only be considered after all non-surgical options are exhausted, and the deformity is severe, causing significant pain or functional limitations. Some surgical options include:
- Arthroplasty: This surgical procedure involves removing a small portion of the bone to straighten the toe joint.
- Arthrodesis: In severe cases, fusing the toe joint may be necessary to correct the deformity.
- Tendon transfer: Surgeons may transfer tendons from the bottom of the toe to the top to help straighten the toe.
- Joint resection: This procedure involves removing part of the toe joint to alleviate pain and improve flexibility.
The recovery period for hammer toe surgery is usually 3-4 weeks.
Handle Your Hammer Toes
Hammer toes can be a source of discomfort and inconvenience, but with proper understanding, prevention, and timely treatment, their impact can be minimized. By maintaining foot health, wearing appropriate footwear, and seeking professional guidance, individuals can effectively manage hammer toes and restore their comfort and mobility.
It is crucial to consult a podiatrist for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan for hammer toes.
Get Professional Treatment for Hammer Toes
Here at Appel Foot & Ankle Center, we offer the highest standard of care in podiatry and seek to make your visit stress-free and discover effective solutions for your foot pain. Make an appointment today and we will find remedies to resolve your foot and ankle problems so that you may live your life without pain and resume your favorite activities. You deserve to enjoy a quality lifestyle.