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Do I Have Hammer Toes?

Foot doctor

You may have hammer toes if the middle joint of your toe has buckled and is stuck in that position. Usually, it affects the toe next to the big or the little toe. It happens when the patient’s toe muscles become weak, and extra pressure is exerted on the tendon and joints. Claw toes and mallet toes are similar medical conditions. In the former, the middle and end joints bend. In the latter condition, the last joint bends and the skin near the toenail can develop painful corns. Foot doctors can treat you for such ailments at North Hill Foot & Ankle Clinic. If required, you can opt for surgical procedures too.

Symptoms for hammer toes vary from person to person. Some may experience corns or calluses and irritation at the top of the bent toe. In some cases, the area swells up and reddens; you might be unable to straighten your toe. Hammer toes can be of two types:

  • Flexible – It is a milder form of the problem where the joint of the hammer toe is flexible.

  • Rigid – The tendons around the joint become rigid and press it out of alignment. As a result, the toe can’t be moved.

What are the Causes?

Shoes which don’t fit properly are the primary reason for hammer toes. Narrow footwear pushes the toes towards each other. Even when you wear high heels, the pressure on the toes increases, causing them to bend. The uneven pressure over the muscles, tendon and ligaments causes the deformity. Diabetic patients or people with poor blood circulation will have increased chances of getting hammer toes.

There are other risk factors including:

  • Arthritis

  • Flat feet

  • Aging

  • Inherited unstable feet (flat or high arch)

  • When to Contact the Foot Doctor or a Podiatrist

The symptoms of a hammer toe are progressive and the condition may gradually worsen. The moment you observe any of the symptoms, it is time to change shoes. Avoid wearing tight, narrow or high heels; it is better to get footwear which comfortably accommodates the hammer toe. Special shoes called wide toe-box shoes have a one-half inch of space between the longest toe and the tip of the shoe. You can even insert hammertoe pads in your shoes. They have a gel lining to prevent irritation from the shoe and provide relief. Completely avoid heels higher than two inches and only wear what suits your activities. For example, going for walks with heels will increase pain. If the problems persist or the pain increases, visit a podiatrist or an orthopedist.

Diagnosis and Cure

You can gently massage the toe to relieve pain and apply ice packs to reduce swellings. Toe exercises help in stretching and strengthening the muscles while actions like picking things up off the floor or rolling a ball also help. You can use cushions or corn pads for relief or take medicines like cortisone for acute pain.

If the bones are too deformed, your foot doctor may ask you to get X-rays of your foot. Extensive deformity will require surgery to straighten it. The doctors will remove a small piece of bone from the involved joint and realign it. Stiffness and swelling are common after surgery. Short walks with proper footwear help in recovery.

What Can I Do to Prevent Hammer Toes?

Check your foot daily for any symptoms of deformity. Avoid a sedentary lifestyle for good blood circulation. If you sit for long duration's , keep your feet raised and take breaks to stretch your legs and feet. A foot massage or warm foot bath is an effective way to relax the muscles.

Since footwear of the right shape and size is essential for healthy feet, here are few tips to follow while buying new shoes:

  • Get shoes which have good arch support. If one of your feet is bigger than the other one, buy the size which suits your bigger foot.

  • Prefer shoes which have more room to adjust your toes.

  • You can buy shoes at the end of the day, as the feet are tired and a little swollen by then. This will provide a better idea of the required shoe size.

  • Always measure your feet before buying. Shoe size vary with every brand. Our feet also grow with time.

  • Avoid high heels. The higher it is, the less safe it will be.

  • Children grow very fast. Check regularly if the shoes still fit them.

Call us today or book an appointment for your foot and ankle problems. To avoid hammer toes, you should visit a podiatrist for regular checkups. You can even get your feet assessed for diabetes-related problems or buy compression stockings for better blood circulation.


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