3 Reasons You Need to Address Hammertoes

Hammertoes are a deformity that can occur in the second through fifth toes. Although the issue may seem benign, eventually the toes can contribute to worsening foot pain and lesions. Once you notice changes in your toes, you should consult with a podiatrist.

Prevent Fixed Deformities

In the early stages of hammertoes, the deformity is not fixed. Since the toes can be straightened with passive movement, this is the ideal time to have them splinted. There are various types of splints, some of which have padding on the bottom and a small band that fits over the toe. Routine splinting can prevent the toe from becoming permanently bent and also help improve walking. Over time, hammertoes will cause changes in your gait, because you may naturally walk with more pressure on your heels to avoid toe pain.

Once the hammertoes become fixed in their bent position, splinting is no longer effective, and the only way to alleviate the problem is through surgery. Surgery may consist of releasing the tendon under the toe to allow it more movement or completely straightening and fusing the toe joints.

Stop Corns And Calluses

Hammertoes will generally develop corns and calluses at two sites of friction and pressure. The first is the tip of the toe. With hammertoes, you no longer walk on the padding underneath the toe, but the toe absorbs force directly on the tip. Your body's way of protecting itself is to create thickened skin. Eventually, this thickened skin becomes painful to walk on, much like walking on a rock.

Another site of pressure and friction will be the top of the toe where the toe joint rubs against your shoes. This area is easier to protect than the problems that develop on the tip of the toe. Usually, wearing shoes with a deeper toe box can prevent the toe from rubbing. Also, unmedicated corn and callus pads made to slip over the toe and provide gel cushion can also help.

Avoid Sores

The same problems that arise when corns and calluses develop can also lead to open sores or ulceration. Although the problem is a concern, it is potentially life-threatening for someone with diabetes and/or poor blood flow to the feet. Open sores may form at the site of friction or underneath corns and calluses when the skin begins to break down under the thickened skin. People with diabetes or vascular disease are prone to infection and slow wound healing. Addressing hammertoes in the early stages may prevent pressure points from becoming serious wounds.

Although hammertoes can seem like an unsightly issue, the problem is more than cosmetic. Eventually, hammertoes can be a considerable source of pain and wounds.