Having foot issues is uncomfortable. Especially since our feet carry the entirety of our body weight. Depending on the severity of a foot condition, even simple tasks like putting on shoes can become a hassle.
This can be an issue when a person suffers from a hammer toe. But what exactly is it? How does it happen, and what can you do to treat it?
What is a hammer toe?
Hammer toe, also called rotated toe, is a foot deformity that develops when pressure on the feet causes muscle weakness. In turn, there’s added pressure on the tendons and ligaments that hold the toe straight. It occurs in one of the three middle toes, and causes them to bend unnaturally.
Can you straighten a hammer toe?
If the toe is only slightly bent, then yes, you can attempt to very gently straighten the toe. If it hurts to do so, seek medical attention. This is important because as the condition progresses, it could affect the bone structure in the foot. Manually forcing the toe to be straight may further injure the patient.
How long does it take for a hammer toe to go away?
If you don’t treat a hammer toe when you notice it, the condition will worsen. Left untreated, medical intervention will be necessary to correct it.
If you change your footwear and obtain conservative treatment (as described below) as soon as you notice a hammer toe, you’ll likely be able to relieve the condition in a matter of weeks.
Hammer Toe Symptoms
The most common signs and symptoms of hammer toe are the following:
- Toe bends unnaturally
- Painful to move the affected toe
- Bent toe has one or several calluses
- Hurts to put on closed-toe shoes
- Irritated skin on top of the bent toe
- Swollen toe joint
- Callus or calluses on the affected toe
Hammer Toe Causes & Risk Factors
There are several factors that increase the probability of a hammer toe:
- Wearing shoes with a pointed toe box
- Wearing shoes that are too small
- Trauma to the foot
- Flat feet
- High arches in the feet
- Family history of hammer toe
- Neuromuscular disorders
- A second toe that’s longer than the big toe
While some items on the list above are out of the patient’s control, it’s noteworthy that one of the main causes of a hammer toe is the type of shoes you wear. Be cognizant of that fact and choose footwear accordingly.
Hammer Toe Treatments
If the condition is mild, the first thing you need to do is stop wearing pointed shoes or footwear that is too small. Once that simple fix has been addressed, we recommend gently straightening out the toes manually several times throughout the day. If you have any blisters, do not pop them, as doing so could cause an infection.
A doctor may recommend shoe inserts, toe exercises, anti-inflammatory medication, or cortisone injections to relieve the symptoms.
If left untreated for a prolonged period of time, the condition will worsen and may require surgery to straighten the toe.
4 Ways to Prevent Hammer Toe
1. Wear practical shoes. It doesn’t matter what fashion dictates at the moment. Developing a foot condition over what a magazine dictates is in is not worth it, especially when it affects your health and overall wellbeing. While you’re at it, make sure the footwear you choose fits properly.
2. Take off your shoes. If you’re wearing shoes that are pressing your toes together, take them off. Keeping your toes in that uncomfortable (and unnatural) position for extended periods of time will cause the muscles around your toes to tighten up.
3. Have your feet measured every time you buy shoes. Some people have one foot that’s larger than the other. Also, sometimes, as a person ages, their feet increase in size. Always wear the correct shoe size to prevent a hammer toe later in life.
4. Inspect your feet regularly. This is especially important if you suffer from any of the conditions listed above (arthritis, diabetes, or a neuromuscular disorder). This way, you’ll notice any changes in your feet early on and nip any potential issues in the bud.
Request an Appointment at The Orthopedic Clinic Today
At The Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If you’re experiencing a hammer toe, let us help you. We’ll tailor a treatment plan that’s best for your lifestyle and get you back to doing the things you love.
Call us at (386) 255-4596 to schedule an appointment.