A hammertoe is a toe deformity where there is bending at the joint. Usually, they begin as a minor toe deformity with little to no pain. However, they are known to worsen over time. Hammertoes are most commonly seen amongst the female population as footwear is the biggest culprit as to the cause.
If you are experiencing pain in your toes, it may not be a hammertoe; it could be something else. Take a look at our blog called ‘why do my toes hurt‘. This could give you some more relevant information about the pain that you’re experiencing.
What Causes Hammertoes?
Unfortunately, conditions such as hammertoes can often run in families. However, adding factors include those listed below!
Footwear- High heels and narrow shoes put large amounts of pressure on the ball of the foot, especially on the toes. On one side, there is pressure from the big toe and on the other smaller toes resulting in pretty much no space for the second toe to go but upwards, therefore forming a hammertoe. Don’t threat; when you squeeze your feet into a tiny space, they sure will let you know about it with an uncomfortable amount of pain. It is your job to identify and remove the pain; otherwise, the issue will remain the same.
Morton’s toe- Morton’s toe is a condition where the second toe is more extended and are more prone to hammertoes. Generally, this is due to fitting our footwear according to our big toe. Instead, we should be focusing on the toe longest in length to ensure there is enough space in the shoe for our toes to fit comfortably. Pressure from toes that are too small can force the second toe back into a bent position at the knuckle joint.
How to prevent Hammertoes at home
Simply, you must ensure you are wearing footwear that suitably fits your feet! You can take the inside, also known as the footbed, out of the shoe if they are removable and stand on this to check if you have a thumbnail between the end of your longest toe and the edge of the footbed.
However, if your shoes do not contain a removable footbed, you can use other convenient methods. For example, you can stand on a piece of cardboard trace around your foot and cut it out. Place this inside of your shoe; if it buckles when you try to lay it flat, this is an indicator that the shoe is too short. Yet, if the cardboard curls up at the side, this implies the shoe is too narrow.
Daily toe stretches can help prevent the hammertoe from becoming an austere toe deformity. Pointing the toe downwards and trying to pick up socks or tissues from the floor is an excellent place to start as it allows the tendons responsible for hammertoes to be stretched.
How can a podiatrist help?
There are various solutions if your hammertoe is caught in an early stage; therefore, it is essential to see a podiatrist if you feel you can no longer cope alone.
- A podiatrist can remove any callus or corns on the hammertoe; these often occur at the top of the toe on the knuckle joint or the tip of the toe. This is done using a scalpel, so it should only be carried out by a podiatrist – don’t try it at home!
- They can apply padding to offload the joint; this aims to relieve pain and prevent corns from reoccurring. This is generally a short-term fix.
- The podiatrist can make an ottoform; this is a custom-made silicone device. An ottoform is a long-term treatment option and can reduce pressure from the tip of the toe dependant on the device.
- Gel devices are available in some pharmacies. However, ottoforms are custom made for the individual, which offers a better solution to the issue.
In addition, podiatrists will advise wide, round toes shoes with a deep toe box to provide more space around the toe area. Seams can cause friction and pressure to hammertoes, so these should be avoided, as they could also lead to problematic skin and corns.
Open-toed sandals are an alternative choice as long as the sandal strap does not come across the top of the toes. Surgery is the last resort and is only advised in certain circumstances by careful consideration with your podiatrist or GP. If you think you might be suffering from hammertoes that you need some help with, get in contact with us today.