Healthy Feet: Everything There is to Know about Hammer Toes
A hammer toe is a foot condition that can cause as much distress as it does embarrassment. Some people opt to not wear open-toe footwear to hide this problem. Some people have heard of this issue, but the fact is that many people do not know a lot about the condition. The following should shed light on this common affliction.
What Exactly is a Hammer Toe?
The hammer toe condition is actually a deformity. It causes one toe to bend downward instead of forward like a toe normally would. This is part of the reason seeing a hammer toe can be jolting to most people.
Human beings are used to seeing certain things, and a hammer toe goes against what is expected. The issue usually shows up on the second or other “lesser” toes, but it can also affect your big toe. Some people dealing with this problem are born with it, but there are others who develop the problem progressively over time.
For people who develop the problem, it usually happens because they wear shoes that do not fit or are designed abnormally like shoes with pointy heels. There are others who develop the problem because of arthritis or overload of the toes from tight calf muscles. This deformity does not have to be permanent, as long as the person afflicted talks to his or her foot specialist.
It should be noted that there are two variations of this hammer toe deformity. One is usually referred to as flexible hammer toe while the other is called rigid hammer toe. The treatment options differ depending on whether the toe is flexible or rigid.
The flexible variation is not as serious, which means the affected toe can still move even though it tends to bend. Rigid hammer toe is more severe and cannot straighten completely. Those suffering from rigid hammer toe missed an opportunity to correct the toe through soft tissue corrections and now need a more aggressive correction strategy.
Tracing Back This Affliction
A closer look at the issue will reveal that the issue starts at the joints within the afflicted toe. Essentially, the middle joint becomes dislocated and is not realigned. This dislocation could happen for all sorts of reasons like the following:
- Major injury to the toe
- A foot arch that is too high
- Unnaturally tight ligaments or tendons on the foot or ankle
- Extreme bunion pressure
- Nerve damage that could cause toes to curl involuntarily
There are a number of factors that could put a person at a higher risk of having or developing hammer toe. These people need to pay attention to the condition of their toes more than others. The following are some of the common risk factors to pay attention to:
- Someone in the family has the issue
- Excessive amounts of calluses, bunions, blisters, or even corns
As a side note, those who love to play sports should be aware of the risks having a hammertoe places on their feet. Tight athletic shoes and cleats can exacerbate the condition, making it worse and more painful.
The shoes must fit perfectly or the risk could be higher than it needs to be. Soccer and football put players in danger of strong physical contact, which could lead to injuries. Foot injuries are some of the most common types of injuries in these contact sports.
Problems Associated With Hammer Toes
This deformity is much more than just a mere cosmetic issue but one that could lead to other problems. Hammer toes can cause pain on the feet after walking a while. Some develop pain when attempting to move the affected toe or toes near the hammer toe. Some may start to have trouble walking when the issue is severe. The deformity can rub on shoes leading to calluses or wounds, and in some patients, can lead to an infection.
It is important to deal with this issue as soon as possible because the problem could develop into a larger issue if the hammer toe becomes rigid. A foot specialist will be able to diagnose the issue through an initial physical exam, though some do administer imagining test to make sure. Those dealing with minor hammer toe problems may be able to shift the toe in the right direction by simply wearing toe pads or insoles. These can be over-the-counter options or prescribed ones.
For those dealing with severe hammer toe issues, the only option may be surgery. The procedure requires experienced foot specialists who can remove the deformity and realign the tendons. Movement can be returned but only after going through this surgery. Keep in mind the procedure is not too invasive, meaning that most people can go home right after the procedure.
Life After Hammer Toes
As mentioned above, patients who have been through a hammer toe surgery can go home the day of the procedure, but that does not mean the foot has healed. Generally, it takes about six weeks to recover from surgery though some take a little longer while others a little less.
Now, it does take a few weeks before feet can be placed inside regular shoes again depending on how much swelling your body experiences. While wearing a postoperative sandal may not be ideal, it is much better than ignoring the issue, allowing the hammer toe to become rigid or start to deform some of the toes around it.
It would be a good idea for those who overcome this issue to do their best to avoid it. This means stretching the toes and calves and wearing comfortable shoes at all times, staying away from pointy shoes like cowboy boots or high heels. Granted, some of these shoes are stylish and cool, but they are not worth the risk of redeveloping this problem. Believe it or not, the hammer toe can return without proper care, so be sure to wear shoes that will not stress your toes.
Hopefully, some of these points made the hammer toe condition a little more clear. With the strategies above, hopefully you will be able to overcome your hammertoe and prevent others from developing. If not, talk to your foot specialist to gather all options available to treat the hammer toe affliction before it gets worse.