Do you frequently wear high-heeled shoes? Do your toes spend most of their days scrunched into the tip of narrow toe-boxes, and do your feet ache at night because they've been lugging your body around with little (if any) support offered by the arches of your shoes? If so, this brief article on hammertoe should have you tossing your heels in favor of flats in no time.
What Is Hammertoe?
Hammertoe is a condition that occurs when a muscle in a toe weakens, thus putting added strain on the toe's joint and tendons. As the joint and tendons begin to weaken under this strain, the joint is pushed upward, causing an unsightly lump on the top of the toe.
Is Hammertoe Painful?
Yes, hammertoe can be very painful. Not only can the stressed joint and tendons become inflamed and irritated, but a rough callous usually forms on top of the toe where the raised joint rubs on the sufferer's shoe. Once this callous forms, the toe constantly rubs or pushes against the inside of the shoe, further worsening the problem.
In the early stages of hammertoe, the toe will be flexible enough to gain some relief by taping it to another toe to hold it down, but eventually the affected toe becomes rigid and resists any attempts at restoring it to its natural position.
How Can Your Shoes Cause Hammertoe?
Up to 60 million Americans have hammertoe, and pain is reported to accompany the condition more frequently by women than by men. Why? It's the shoes you're wearing, ladies. When your heels are two inches or taller, your feet slide forward in your shoes and cram your toes unnaturally into the tips of them. And because you have to work to balance yourself with your feet in this position, your body weight is shifted forward, driving your toes into the tiny space that much further. The crammed and confined position of the toes when they are in high-heels is exactly what causes the tendon and muscle weakness discussed above.
How Is Hammertoe Treated?
If treatment begins in the early stages when the affected toe is still flexible, a podiatrist may be able to fit your foot with a special splint that holds the affected toe in-line with the other toes. Over time and with plenty of foot exercises and the right footwear, your toe should adjust back to its normal position. Further treatment may be required to remove any callouses or corns that may have developed as a result of hammertoe.
If hammertoe has progressed to the point where the tendons or joints have sustained damage, a surgical procedure will be necessary. Traditional hammertoe surgery involved holding the joint in its natural position with the use of wires and pins. Unfortunately, pins are prone to loosen or shift out of place. To combat this issue, a new hammertoe corrective surgery has been invented which relies on an implant to hold the joint in place. The implant is inserted into the bones of the toe and expands once in place, making it virtually impossible for the joint to shift out of place again.
How Can You Prevent Hammertoe?
While hammertoe treatment is effective, it can also be painful, and recovery can take weeks. Your best course of action is to prevent needing hammertoe correction by limiting your risk of developing the condition in the first place. How? Kick those high-heels to the curb; it's okay to wear them out every once in a while, but regular wear isn't worth the toll they could take on your toes. Clean out your shoe collection and replace a good portion of your high-heels with shoes that have flatter soles, wider toe-boxes, and plenty of arch support.
And remember, seeking treatment for hammertoe in its early stages may prevent the need for surgery. If you think you may already be developing hammertoe, get to your local podiatrist, such as those at Advanced Foot Clinic, immediately so you can start corrective measures before your muscles and tendons sustain so much damage that a surgical procedure is necessary.