Have you recently noticed a change in the appearance of your toes? Hammer toes can occur when one of your toes begins to bend unnaturally at the middle joint. This is caused by imbalance of muscles and tendons in your toes. This conditioned is often aggravated by wearing shoes that are too small for your feet, or have pointed toes. These types of shoes can put excess pressure on your toes, which further worsens the muscle imbalance.
Luckily, pain and symptoms from most of the hammertoe deformities can be controlled with non-surgical, conservative measures.
If you have a mild case of hammer toe, the first thing you should do is change your shoes. Your foot should be able to fit comfortably in your shoe, with half an inch of space between the tips of your toes and the edge of the shoe. Ideally, your shoe would be the same width as your foot, but should not be more than one inch narrower. Have your feet measured properly when you buy shoes, or at home by tracing your bare foot while it is flat on the ground. You can measure your width by measuring the widest point of your foot’s outline. You should change your shoes at least once a year. You can place non-medicated corn pads to prevent excess pressure on adjacent toes. These products should be available at your local pharmacy, or at your podiatrist’s office. You can also use orthotic inserts to control muscle imbalances in your foot, controlling your case of hammer toe. These can be custom molded to your foot by your podiatrist, offering optimal biomechanics.
As hammer toe deformity and pain due to it progresses your foot may require surgical correction. These are usually outpatient procedures, which means you go home the same day of surgery. The type of procedure depends on the severity of the procedure. Some of the procedures include: Tendon transfer, which is transferring a tendon from the bottom to the toe to the top in order to straighten the toe. This procedure can be performed alone or in combination with another bony procedure. Arthroplasty involves removing half the joint that includes the deformity allowing the distorted toe to straighten. Arthrodesis or fusion of the joint involves removing the joint under the damaged part of the toe in order to reposition and straighten the toe. Pins, screws or implants can be used to help in bone healing. Depending upon the kind of procedure, the healing time can be a few weeks.
If you are experiencing symptoms of hammer toe, you should contact Ankle and Foot Specialist of New Jersey as soon as possible. Dr. Thapar will examine your toes to determine the exact problem and the best course of treatment to limit your pain and heal your foot correctly. Give us a call at (908) 222-8980, (732) 356-FOOT (3668) or request an appointment with our Warren or South Plainfield office (right on the border with Edison) online today.