The set position of a hammertoe deformity can cause persistent discomfort and leave you prone to developing painful corns and calluses. The condition, which usually affects the second, third, or fourth toe, is characterized by a stiff bend at the middle joint that prevents your toe from lying flat and straight. At Universal Footcare, with comfortable and upscale Manhattan office in Chelsea of New York, board-certified podiatrist Neha J. Pathak, DPM, provides a complete range of effective treatment strategies for patients with hammertoes. Call the office in Chelsea or book your appointment online today.
The term hammertoe is used to describe a toe deformity that keeps your toe’s middle joint perpetually bent. When viewed from the top, a hammertoe deformity makes your toe look as if it’s arched or curled under; viewed from the side, it looks something like an inverted V.
Hammertoe almost always affects one of the middle toes, also known as your lesser digits. It’s rare for the big toe or pinkie toe to develop the condition.
There are two main types of hammertoe deformities, flexible and rigid:
In the early stages of hammertoe development, the affected toe joint is still pliable and moveable. Flexible hammertoes are less severe because they respond well to treatment and are manageable with proper care.
A rigid hammertoe deformity is more fixed, meaning the tendons in the affected joint are so tight that the joint has become immobile. People with severe arthritis are more likely to develop a rigid hammertoe problem, as are those who don’t seek early treatment when the condition starts to develop.
Although a hammertoe deformity can have a variety of causes, most people who develop one have an imbalance in the muscles, tendons, or ligaments that are meant to keep the toe straight.
Some people are genetically predisposed to hammertoe deformities because they have an inherited foot structure that makes them prone to the condition. People with arthritis or diabetes are more likely to develop toe deformities.
Trauma, such as a broken toe, can cause instability that increases your risk of developing the deformity in the future. Wearing high-heeled shoes or shoes that don’t leave enough space is another reason people wind up with hammertoes.
It’s best to treat a hammertoe deformity early, simply because a toe joint that’s still flexible can often be relaxed and repositioned without surgery.
Dr. Pathak typically begins hammertoe treatment by addressing any faulty foot mechanics that may contribute to the problem. You can also expect her to recommend specific footwear that will help facilitate healing.
Besides switching to comfortable, supportive shoes with a low heel and wide toe box, you may benefit from custom orthotics that help reposition your toe to relieve pressure and discomfort. Specific physical therapy exercises that help strengthen and stretch your toes can also be highly beneficial.
If you can’t find relief through conservative techniques, surgery to release a tight tendon, remove a bony prominence, and restore normal alignment may be your best option.
To learn more about all hammertoe treatment options, call Universal Footcare today or book your appointment online.