A hammer toe deformity can present in several different ways. Your toes may look like they’re buckling, or the ‘knuckle’ on your toe could start looking a lot more noticeable. Or maybe things look the same, but all of a sudden, you notice that your toes rub up against the top of your shoes? Well, in all of these cases, you may be developing hammer toes. And, if you don’t seek treatment, the troubles could only get worse!
Why Did I Get a Hammer Toe?
Several different factors can cause a hammer toe deformity. But, the most common reason is that muscular imbalances in your toes lead to changes in the shape and function of your toe. In some cases, injuries such as toe fractures can harm your toe joints, eventually leading to deformity. And, for some people, shoe choice can make an existing hammer toe worse. Or, they can speed up development of this deformity, especially if the shoes have high heels or pointy toes. However, shoes are rarely (if ever) the true cause of this condition.
What are the stages of a hammer toe deformity?
While there aren’t exactly stages of a hammer toe, there are two main categories: rigid or flexible. If you have a flexible hammer toe, that means we can still straighten your toe manually. But if your toe is so stiff that there’s no way we can get it straight, that means you have a rigid hammer toe.
Within those two categories, there are four different type of hammer toe deformity, classified by the location of joint damage. We use the term hammer toe to specifically describe a deformity in the toe’s first joint. You may also have a mallet toe, when changes impact your toe’s second joint. In this case, your toe tip can droop, and a corn may develop there because of the added pressure.
Then, there are claw toes—these develop with deformities in both middle toe joints. Finally, you may have a rotated hammer toe (called an adductovarus deformity.) Most common in your pinky toe, this rotation makes your toe hit the side of your shoe, and increases your likelihood for corns on the toe itself, and in the spot between your fourth and pinky toes.
Can a hammer toe go back to normal?
With treatment, we can correct a hammer toe deformity and restore the appearance of your foot. The visual results you achieve will depend on the severity of your condition and the treatment option you select.
First, if you notice a hammer toe forming while it’s still flexible, we can simply take steps to prevent the deformity from getting worse. This could involve simple measures, such as choosing shoes with lots of room in the toe area, and with lower heels, to keep pressure off your toe joints. We can also recommend custom orthotics. These can restore balance in your toe muscles, relieving the pressure that’s contributing to the hammer toe deformity. If you wish to straighten out your flexible hammer toe, we can also recommend a special splint or support for your toe. Over time, this should help straighten your hammer toe, while avoiding the need for surgery.
Now, as we mentioned earlier, hammer toe deformities often cause corns or calluses to develop. If your corns are very painful, we can schedule an in-office corn removal. But if they’re only mildly, we can suggest non-medicated corn pads. These can help relieve the pressure that formed your corns to begin with, while also preventing rubbing and irritation against the sides or tops of your shoes.
Treating a Hammer Toe Deformity: When is Surgery Necessary?
While many non-surgical treatment options will effectively treat a flexible hammer toe, that’s not the case if your deformity is rigid. In such instances, surgery is likely your best option, especially if hammer toes are already making it hard for you to find shoes that fit or make it through your day without experiencing pain.
Luckily, our podiatrist in Powder Springs is an experienced surgeon, and offers both minimally invasive and open surgical procedures that correct a hammer toe deformity. The type of procedure we’ll recommend for you will depend on the severity of your condition and your lifestyle and ability to stay off your feet after surgery. Following a surgical consultation at our podiatry office in the Lost Mountain neighborhood, we will recommend a detailed, personalized treatment plan that will best suit your needs.
What if a hammer toe isn’t my only foot deformity?
Many patients who come in for a hammer toe deformity also have bunions. In fact, pressure from a forming bunion could often be the cause of your developing hammer toe! So, if you have both bunions and hammer toes, we will likely need to treat both deformities. Otherwise, pressure from one will contribute to the other, and you are likely to have a recurrence, even after a hammer toe treatment.
Luckily, just as with hammer toes, we can treat small bunions non-surgically, usually with padding and custom orthotics. But if you have a large or painful bunion, we will likely recommend surgical treatment. Here again, Dr. Alvin Cowans can correct a bunion using minimally invasive or open surgical procedures. After your in-office consultation, he will determine whether you are a candidate for MIS, and make the appropriate treatment recommendations.
Who Should You See for a Hammer Toe Deformity?
Your podiatrist in Powder Springs, GA is the best specialist to diagnose and treat a hammer toe deformity. While there are plenty of surgeons out there, a podiatrist is a highly trained surgeon whose sole focus is on the bones, joints, tendons and muscles in your toes, feet and ankles.
Ready to straighten out that painful, buckled hammer toe and get back to wearing the shoes you love? Want to prevent a small, flexible hammer toe from turning into a painful, rigid deformity? Time is not on your side—the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to treat your toes. Call us today at 770-727-0614 or click here to request an immediate appointment.