Is one of your middle toes turning under and curling, becoming rigid and painful? If so, you could be experiencing hammertoe, a condition that affects many Americans every year.
At Ani Medical Group in Hazlet and Old Bridge, New Jersey, Dr. Ian Hersh can diagnose hammertoe in early or late stages, and provide the appropriate treatment to relieve pain and improve your flexibility.
Hammertoe (also called a mallet toe) is a common condition that can lead to changes in how your toes look and feel. When you develop hammertoe, one or more of your toes begin to bend at the middle joint. Like the name implies, this makes your toes look like a hammer or mallet. It typically occurs in the second, third, or fourth toes on your foot.
Hammertoe is more than just an aesthetic issue. This deformity can lead to muscle imbalances, ill-fitting shoes, and chronic stress on other areas of your toes and feet. The most common risk factors for hammertoe are rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and tight tendons in the feet. Women who wear tight, pointy heels also are likely to experience hammertoe when they get older.
If you suspect you’re developing hammertoe, here are some other things to look for.
The classic sign of hammertoe is a second (or third or fourth) toe that curls down at the tip. This can cause pain in the toe and the tendons of the foot, especially if there is friction in the shoe.
It’s completely normal for your feet to change size slightly, and your arches to gradually fall over time. However, if you’ve noticed a strange tightness in the toe of your shoes, it might be a sign of developing hammertoe.
Pain is a common symptom of hammertoe. The chronic tightness in your muscles can lead to sore feet, and you might have blisters or pressure spots where your feet are trying to bear weight abnormally.
Because your feet are bending at an odd angle, the weight and stress will be distributed differently. Your body might accommodate for this by developing new calluses and corns. You might notice these on the tips or middle parts of your toes.
Hammertoe is fairly easy to treat in its early stages. Flexible hammertoes can be treated by making adjustments to your footwear and doing exercises. It’s recommended that you switch to wearing open-toed sandals and roomy shoes. Toe exercises and foot muscle stretches can help correct the issue, and custom orthotics can provide additional support.
In its later stages, your hammertoe will become rigid and require surgery. An experienced podiatric surgeon will be able to straighten your toe using techniques like bone fusions, tendon transfers, or joint resections.
It’s important to remember that hammertoe never corrects itself. You’ll need intervention to correct the issue, whether it's through conservative treatments or surgery. If you notice something strange about your toes or feet, be sure to bring it up with your podiatrist.
Do you suspect you have a hammertoe? Get in touch with the team at Ani Medical Group by calling 732-264-8282, or request an appointment online.