Have you noticed a problem with pain in your small toes, especially the one closest to the big toe? Have any of them not wanted to lie flat, especially when you wear shoes? Even if they go back to their normal position when you remove your footwear, if the pain returns when you put your shoes back on, you may have developed an uncomfortable condition called hammertoe.
A hammertoe is a problem at the middle joint in one or more of the smaller toes. The joint becomes fixed in a bent position. The pressure and rubbing against your footwear that results can be very uncomfortable and make it difficult both to wear shoes and to walk around. The problem is caused by an imbalance in the tendons that control the toe—the one that straightens it and the one that bends it pull unequally on the bones. The imbalance can be caused by many things, including preexisting conditions, an injury, and poor footwear. There are two kinds of hammertoes: flexible, which can still be straightened by hand, and rigid, which are locked in place and require serious intervention to heal.
If left on its own, these deformities tend to only get worse. The toes can develop painful calluses and corns in the high-friction areas. The bent joint may impair mobility and the pain may cause you to change your walking gait, which then risks causing additional deformities in other toes. Over time, flexible toes tend to become rigid unless the source of the problem is addressed.
Hammertoes can be successfully treated using conservative, noninvasive measures in most cases. Drs. Joel W. Brook and David R. Northcutt will examine your foot to determine what caused it to develop. If an untreated problem in your foot caused the issue, you may also need to remedy that condition to relieve pain in your toes. Changing your footwear to shoes that don’t squeeze and don’t put extra pressure on the ball of the foot can help. You may also need a prescription orthotic to add support and maintain the affected digit’s proper position. Physical therapy to relax the over-tightened tissues and strengthen the weakened ones can also build up strength in your feet and help correct the imbalance that bent the toe in the first place.
If your hammertoe is stiff and unbending, however, conservative measures may not be enough. Simple surgery to release the tightened tendons can be easy and require only a short recovery time. If the condition has degenerated significantly, though, you may need a more involved procedure to rebalance the soft tissues, correct the misaligned bone structures, or even fuse or replace the damaged joint.
Hammertoes can lead to other issues for your feet, and even become rigid and hard to treat, if nothing is done to slow or stop its progression. If you are noticing one of your toes is painful and seems to stay bent in one position, don’t ignore the problem and simply hope it will get better on its own. Instead, contact Dallas Podiatry Works for an appointment or more information and begin your path to healing and relief. Call either of our two convenient office locations—(972) 566-7474 for our Dallas office and (972) 943-3323 for our Plano location—or visit the online contact page to reach us.