What Causes Hammertoe and What Are My Treatment Options?

Your toes are important, albeit very small, parts of your anatomy. Unfortunately, they’re extremely vulnerable to problems and deformities like hammertoe. 

Dr. Kelly Geoghan knows that hammertoe is both a painful and embarrassing condition. She offers only the best treatments and therapies for your foot problems and wants to make sure that you’re completely informed about your condition as well. 

Here’s everything you need to know about hammertoe. 

What is hammertoe?

Except for your big toe, each of your toes has three joints. A hammertoe has an abnormal bend in its middle joint. Similarly, a mallet toe has a bend in the joint nearest your toenail. You can have one or more hammertoes on your foot.

Along with the abnormal bend in your toe, you might also experience difficulty or pain with moving the toe. Corns and calluses also form easily on hammertoes after rubbing against the inside of your shoe.

Anyone can get a hammertoe, but there are a few factors that increase your likelihood. For example, being female, increased age, having a longer second toe, genetics, and certain diseases like arthritis all contribute to your risk of hammertoe.

This foot condition isn’t a serious threat to your health, but it can cause emotional distress and become chronically painful if not treated quickly and correctly. 

What causes hammertoe?

Your toes have it pretty tough. They must help you walk and stay balanced even under the hardest working conditions. Sometimes, they can’t handle the pressure, and they bend and curl into hammertoes.  

Here are some of the most common causes of this foot deformity.

Shoe style

Pointed shoes, high-heeled shoes, and shoes that don’t fit properly cause your toes to crowd together instead of lying flat in the toe box. Forcing your toes into this position eventually causes them to curl unnaturally into a hammertoe when you’re barefoot. 

Because women often wear these types of shoes, they’re much more likely to develop hammertoes than men.

Trauma and injury

Severely jamming, stubbing, or breaking your toe makes the joints even more susceptible to bending awkwardly. Dr. Geoghan can evaluate and treat any toe injuries to prevent further complications like hammertoe. 

Musculoskeletal abnormalities

Sometimes your hammertoe stems from an imbalance within your toe muscles. Healthy toe muscles do a good job of holding your toes straight and firmly in the correct position. If your muscles aren’t working properly, your toe can easily curl and bend at the joint. 

What are the treatments for hammertoe?

Only in the most serious cases does a hammertoe require surgery, so Dr. Geoghan begins by treating your hammertoe conservatively, which usually means evaluating your footwear. For hammertoe, she often recommends custom orthotics

Custom orthotics are specially made inserts that go in your shoes and fit your foot perfectly, unlike store-bought orthotics that are one-size-fits-most. You can have orthotics made for virtually any type of shoe from sneakers to kitten heels. 

Custom orthotics treat your hammertoe by repositioning your foot so your toe can rest in the correct position. They also offer additional cushioning and support helping you feel less pain when you walk.

Dr. Geoghan also advises you on how to select the right pair of shoes to reduce your symptoms and prevent future problems. 

For example, you should look for shoes that have adequate toe room and low heels. Shoes that are adjustable make it even easier to prevent toe crowding. 

Depending on your needs, Dr. Geoghan can also prescribe at-home stretches and exercises that strengthen your toes and improve flexibility. 

If you’re ready to address your toe problems, we can help you walk away from hammertoe with our dedicated and compassionate care. Contact our Lutherville, Maryland office to get started today. 

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