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What Are Hammertoes and What Can I Do About Them?

If one of your toes is bent at the middle joint, like a claw, you have a condition known as hammertoe. Hammertoes may not cause discomfort at first, but without treatment, they can lead to difficulty walking and even permanent disfigurement of your feet.

Dr. Michael Tran at AllCare Foot & Ankle Center specializes in diagnosing and treating hammertoes before they cause problems in your day-to-day life. Let’s take a deeper look at hammertoes and what you can do about them.

What’s a hammertoe?

Your toes contain a system of muscles, tendons, and ligaments that allow the bones to bend or straighten. When something goes wrong with this delicate system (an untreated injury, for example), the muscles and tendons can lose the ability to flex, and a hammertoe develops.

The bent, hammer-like appearance of this foot condition can be embarrassing; untreated, it can create bigger problems. Besides increasing discomfort as it worsens, a hammertoe leads to balance issues, increased strain, corns, and calluses elsewhere on your feet.

What causes hammertoes?

A fracture or other trauma could be to blame for your hammertoe, but it’s more likely that other factors caused it over time. Contributors to a higher risk of hammertoes include: 

Tight shoes

Wearing tight shoes on a regular basis can lead to hammertoes. Bending your toes to fit into restrictive shoes all day, every day, can cause weakness and imbalance in the muscles and tendons.

Long-term wear of any shoe with a toe box that’s too small can be harmful. Because high heels also redistribute your weight to the ball of your foot and toes, they’re particularly problematic.

Health conditions

Some diseases make you more likely to develop a hammertoe. Arthritis, polio, and cerebral palsy all affect the joints and muscles in your toes. The pressure from walking on an untreated bunion is also a hammertoe contributor.

Genetics

As with many health issues, sometimes you’re dealt an unlucky genetic hand. People with flat feet are more likely to get hammertoes due to how the toes curl to balance their gait. Feet with high arches are also at risk of hammertoes from imbalanced strain on the tendons.

How can you prevent hammertoes?

If you’re at risk of a hammertoe, there are preventive measures to ensure your feet stay pain-free. Dr. Tran recommends these tips:

If you notice a hammertoe developing, make an appointment with Dr. Tran. It’s important to begin treatment in the early stages.

What treatments are available for hammertoes?

Toes can stiffen with time and become more difficult to fix. As long as your hammertoe is still flexible, Dr. Tran may suggest nonsurgical options for treatment, including:

Surgery may become necessary if your hammertoe progresses beyond a mild case or when nonsurgical treatments aren’t providing relief.

Don’t wait a minute longer wondering what you can do about an unsightly, uncomfortable hammertoe. AllCare Foot & Ankle Center has offices in Arlington and Dallas, Texas. Call or click to book an appointment with us today.

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