If you're having pain while walking or wearing shoes, you may have a contracted toe, otherwise known as hammertoe; a toe that is consistently bent at the first joint. Many people have a hammertoe without even realising it, but others will feel discomfort and pain because of it. Although more common in women, hammer toe can affect anyone and it's a progressive condition which means it won't get better on its own.
The Causes of Hammertoe
There are a number of causes of hammertoe. The most common cause is ill fitting shoes, which is why more women than men suffer from the condition, as tight and narrow shoes favoured by those who follow the fashions can force the toe to contract for long periods of time.
The other common cause of hammertoe is the way you walk. If the way your naturally walk puts too much pressure on the toe, if the foot is too mobile or if the tendons attached to the toe are overworked, the deformity that leads to hammer toe can develop.
Other causes include:
- A genetic predisposition to hammertoe.
- Trauma to the foot, such as a broken toe.
Symptoms to Look out for
Signs of hammertoe to watch out for include:
- Red skin and soreness over the affected joint, caused by the friction as the raised joint rubs against your shoes.
- Corns or calluses on the affected toe, particularly at the joint.
- Pain, irritation or a burning sensation, especially when wearing shoes and moving.
- A toe that is consistently more bent than the others.
If you're concerned about your toe or are having trouble walking, speak to your podiatrist.
Treatment for Hammertoe
To confirm a hammertoe, your podiatrist will take your medical history and possibly some x-rays of your foot. Once the cause and severity of your hammer toe has been established, your podiatrist will work out a treatment plan for you.
If your hammertoe is in the early stages of deformity with no severe underlying cause, your podiatrist may recommend you change shoe size and style, opting instead of larger or wider shoes. They may also give you a cushioned pad or splint to wear, along with anti-inflammatory medication. If your corns or calluses are painful, your podiatrist can remove these.
In severe cases, your podiatrist may recommend an operation called an arthroplasty, which involves removing some of the bone in the affected toe joint to allow for more movement and flexibility. If more than one joint is affected and it is affecting your quality of life, your podiatrist may suggest an operation to fuse and pin the bones of the affected joints in order to straighten the toe.
If caught in the early stages hammertoe can be easily treated, but remember that this condition will only get worse with time so see your podiatrist (like those at ACT Podiatry) as soon as possible.