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By Idaho Foot & Ankle Associates
November 30, 2020
Category: Foot Conditions
Tags: hammertoes  

Dealing with a hammertoe? Here’s what to do about it.

It’s easy for our Boise, ID, podiatrists to be able to spot hammertoes through a simple examination. After all, the classic characteristic is a toe that is bent downward. In more serious cases the toe may look almost claw-like and be unable to straighten. If you think you may have a hammertoe, here’s what you should know,

Hammertoes are progressive

A hammertoe will not go away (unless it’s surgically repaired). In fact, this deformity (just like bunions) can get worse over time. This is why it’s important to 1. Catch a hammertoe early on when you’re still able to straighten the joint and 2. Start incorporating conservative measures and treatment options early to slow its progress.

Hammertoes typically affects the small toes

Just as a bunion typically affects the large toe joint, a hammertoe is another common foot deformity that often affects the joint of the small toes. Hammertoes often result from a muscle imbalance within the feet. By turning to your podiatrist for regular checkups, we can provide ways to prevent hammertoes from occurring such as creating prescription orthotics to correct the imbalance.

Hammertoes can be relieved through simple measures

It’s important that you are doing what you can to prevent the hammertoe from getting worse, but it is comforting to know that most discomfort can be alleviated through simple home care and lifestyle modifications. Some ways to treat a hammertoe include,

  • Strapping or tapping the toe to realign the joint
  • Performing stretching and strengthening exercises to improve the muscles of the foot
  • Wearing the proper footwear with wide toe boxes and material that is breathable and gives (e.g. leather)
  • Icing and pain relievers to tackle pain and swelling
  • Applying a non-medicated protective padding to the toe to prevent a callus from developing

Know the signs of a hammertoe

In the very early stages, it may be difficult to tell whether you are dealing with a hammertoe. You may only notice a small amount of redness, inflammation, swelling, pain or discomfort that may get worse when wearing shoes. As the joint deformity gets worse the toe will start to bend downward. You may also notice a corn or callus develop on or between the toes.

If you are concerned about hammertoes, our Boise, Nampa and Meridian, ID, podiatrists can help. Call Idaho Foot & Ankle Associates at (208) 327-0627, (208) 463-1660 or (208) 888-9876 to schedule an evaluation.

By Idaho Foot & Ankle Associates
July 03, 2019
Category: Podiatry
Tags: hammertoes  

A hammertoe is a common foot deformity that affects the middle joint of the smaller toes. As a result, this causes the toes to bend downward. Since this bend causes the joint to stick out this can put more pressure on the affected joints when wearing shoes, which can also make the deformity worse over time. As with most foot deformities a hammertoe will start out minor and continue to progress over time if left untreated.

During the earlier stages you may not notice much pain and discomfort. In fact the only way you may be able to tell that you have a hammertoe is by examining the foot and noticing that the small toes bend downward like a claw. Of course, at this stage the deformed joint is still flexible enough to be straightened out.

However, if the deformity progresses this can cause the joint to become rigid, which won’t respond effectively to simple conservative treatments. As you might imagine, the sooner you see a podiatrist to treat your hammertoe the better. Early intervention is key, as a hammertoe will not get better without the proper care.

Hammertoes are often the result of an imbalance in the muscle or tendon of the foot. Over time, this leads to structural changes in the foot. Genetics may also play a role in whether your feet are at risk for this deformity. A hammertoe can also be made worse by wearing shoes that are too tight and put too much pressure on the toes.

Along with the structural changes that occur with hammertoes it’s also common to experience redness, inflammation or the development of a corn or callus on the toe. If you are noticing symptoms of a hammertoe see your podiatrist for an evaluation. A simple physical exam is usually all that’s needed to diagnose a hammertoe; however, sometimes an x-ray will be performed in order to determine the extent of the deformity.

If you are dealing with a flexible hammertoe, more often than not simple nonsurgical treatment options are all that’s needed. Following simple treatment options and care can prevent the hammertoes from becoming rigid or painful. Some nonsurgical treatment options include:

  • Wearing the appropriate footwear. This means wearing shoes that aren’t pointy or have high heels, which can put more pressure on the toes.
  • Placing custom orthotics into your shoes, which can ease discomfort and prevent pain resulting in a muscular imbalance.
  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, which can reduce both pain and inflammation.
  • Splinting the toe or toes to keep them straight, which can also reduce stiffness, inflammation and pain.
  • Applying protective non-medicated padding over the top of the toe to prevent a corn or callus from developing.

If your hammertoe is painful or rigid then you may need to discuss whether surgery is the best option for alleviating your symptom and correcting the deformity. If you are dealing with a hammertoe turn to a foot specialist for help.

By Idaho Foot & Ankle Associates
July 05, 2018
Category: Foot Health
Tags: hammertoes  

When most people think about foot deformities they most often think about bunions; however, hammertoes are just as common. This unassuming deformity comes about gradually, so you may not even notice it until it’s too late. “What is a hammertoe?” You might be wondering. A hammertoe affects the middle joint of a toe (often the smaller toes), causing the toe to bend downward. In severe cases, a hammertoe will look almost claw-like.

There are two kinds of hammertoes: flexible and rigid. As you might imagine, a flexible hammertoe is one in which you can still straighten the toe out. If you aren’t able to straighten the affected toe then this is a rigid hammertoe. A flexible hammertoe isn’t as serious as a rigid one; however, it’s important that you take care of your hammertoe to make sure that it doesn’t get worse.

While there is no way to cure a hammertoe there are simple measures you can take to prevent it from progressing. First and foremost, you need to take a look at the shoes you are wearing and make sure that they aren’t too tight. When you slip your feet into your shoes, does it cause your toes to bunch up against one another? If so then this could make your hammertoe worse.

Instead, opt for shoes with an ample toe box, which will allow your toes to wiggle and move around freely. If you have a structural imbalance within the foot this can leave you prone to foot problems such as hammertoes and bunions. To correct this imbalance, talk to your foot doctor about getting custom orthotics (shoe inserts), which can be placed into your shoes to help provide cushioning, support, and shock absorption for your feet.

If pain or stiffness does rear its ugly head you can choose to take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen, which can tackle both pain and inflammation in one fell swoop, or you can place a towel-wrapped ice pack (never put ice directly on the skin, as it can cause severe burns) over the area for several minutes.

Just as you can buy pads to cover a bunion or callus, you can also buy a non-medicated protective pad to cover over a hammertoe. Since the deformed toe joint juts out this can leave the toe prone to calluses, which can cause pain when wearing shoes. To prevent a callus from forming, you can apply a protective pad over the deformed toe joint before putting on shoes.

Of course, if you are dealing with significant or frequent pain, or if the hammertoe is rigid, then you will want to turn to a podiatric specialist. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended to correct the disfigured joint.

By Idaho Foot & Ankle Associates
August 06, 2015
Tags: hammertoes  

Hammertoes are a relatively common foot condition affecting millions of Americans. Some people think it is just a cosmetic issue, but it is a problem that affects the bone structure of the feet. Some patients may even joke about hammertoes, but when you consider the Hammertoes potential ramifications of allowing it to progress, it's no laughing matter. Learn how to diagnose hammertoes, and how they can be treated at Idaho Foot & Ankle Associates in Boise.

What Are Hammertoes?
Hammertoes are a foot condition that causes a change in the positioning of the toes. The toes bend over into an almost 90-degree angle (called a contracture), causing the tops of the toes to stick up farther than they should. When this happens, it becomes extremely uncomfortable to wear normal shoes. Hammertoes are almost always accompanied by corns and calluses on the toes.

Do You Have Them?
Hammertoes are very noticeable and easy for your Boise foot doctor to diagnose. The first indication that you may have them is if your toes curve downward, and you have a hard time moving them back into their natural position. Other symptoms:

  • pain or friction when you try to put on shoes
  • inflammation and burning
  • unsightly calluses forming 
  • open sores forming on toes

Hammertoes progress over time, which is why it’s important to have them treated at the first sign.

Fixing Hammertoes
There are treatments available to fix hammertoes and return your feet to normal. Since wearing tight shoes for long periods of time is almost always the cause of hammertoes, the first remedy is to get better shoes and orthotics to protect the feet. Toe pads can help reduce the appearance of calluses and corns. If there’s intense pain, corticosteroid injections may help. Your podiatrist can also splint the toes to help them move back into a straight position. In rare cases, surgery is recommended. 

Schedule a Foot Examination Today
The sooner you have hammertoes treated by a qualified podiatrist at Idaho Foot & Ankle Associates, the better for your overall foot health. Call the Boise office at 208-327-0627 today to arrange an exam at a time that’s convenient to your busy schedule.

By Idaho Foot & Ankle Associates
June 27, 2014
Tags: Boise   hammertoes  
hammertoesMuscle and ligament imbalances around the toe joints can cause what Boise, ID podiatrists call “hammertoes.” People with this condition find that their toes become locked in a bent position, causing irritation and rubbing on the top of the toe. Hammertoes can be a serious problem in people who have problems with poor circulation. We recommend Boise patients with diabetes or arthritis to visit our office at the first sign of foot pain.
Two types of hammertoes affect the Boise, Idaho population. Flexible hammertoes are a milder form of the condition, and allow persons affected some mobility in their toes. Treatments provided at this stage of the condition may be able to correct or reverse the problem. Rigid hammertoes are a more advanced form of this foot ailment, limiting all movement in the toes and usually shifting tendons out of proper alignment. At either stage, it is important to visit a podiatrist, but in the latter instance, surgery may be required to correct the condition.

What Causes Hammertoes?

The joints in your toes, just like all other joints in your body, require pairs of muscles to work together in order to create movement. Because of the daily stresses put on feet, it is not uncommon for these muscles to become imbalanced. When that happens, hammertoes can form. A few main culprits have been found to increase the risk of developing hammertoes:
  • Genes: The shape of your foot can impact where you put pressure on your feet when you walk. Unfortunately, flat feet and high arches are usually traits inherited from your parents and without surgery, you can’t necessarily fix them. You can, however, look for footwear that counters the imbalance caused the shape of your feet when you walk.
  • Arthritis: Hammertoes can be a rather annoying symptom involved with the development of arthritis. While there isn’t any fool-proof way to treat hammertoes caused by arthritis, knowing your susceptibility for arthritis can go a long way in staving off this condition. Boise podiatrists recommend daily toe exercises to keep your feet fit and flexible, especially if you have a history of arthritis in your family.
  • Poor-fitting footwear: If shoes are too tight, short, or pointy, they push the toes out of balance. Women who wear high heels often are at a higher risk for developing hammertoes because of the severe pressure those types of shoes put on the toes.
Start taking steps toward healthier feet. To learn more about the causes of hammertoes and ways you can prevent them, call (208) 327-0627 to schedule a consultation with podiatrist at Idaho Foot & Ankle today.