It’s all too easy to take your small toes for granted—until a painful issue like hammertoes affects your feet. Hammertoes are a common deformity that can make wearing certain shoes very uncomfortable for you. Fortunately, with early treatment, you can take care of this deformity using minimally invasive methods.

Joints Getting Stuck

Hammertoes are a problem with one of the joints in a small toe getting stuck in a bent position. Each of your small toes is affected by three joints. When the middle joint sticks so it stays bent instead of straightening out on its own, that is a hammertoe. Your toe getting stuck can make it difficult to wear certain shoes and increase your risk for additional issues like painful corns and calluses.

Generally this condition is caused by a muscle or tendon imbalance. You have pairs of tendons that work against each other to bend and straighten your toes. However, pressure on your forefoot can cause one of the tendons to tighten and shorten, so it’s harder and harder for your toe to straighten on its own.

Many different issues can put pressure on your digits to cause that imbalance. One of the most common is actually wearing shoes that don’t fit correctly, forcing your toes to stay in a scrunched position. Over time, your joint simply gets stuck and may not straighten out even when you take your shoes off. An unusually high arch, trauma, arthritis, and pressure from a bunion can all cause hammertoes as well. The longer your digit stays in that bent position, the more stuck it becomes—until eventually, it can’t straighten out at all.

Straightening Your Toe

The good news is that many hammertoes can be treated noninvasively, using just conservative methods. Our specialists at Far West Podiatric Medical Group will carefully examine your lower limbs to identify the specific cause of the deformity and any factors that may be contributing to it. Then we’ll work on helping you straighten the bent joint. As long as your joint is still flexible and movable, minimally invasive methods can usually help.

First you may need to change your footwear to be sure your digits have enough room to lay flat and straight when you stand. Avoid high heels and styles that shift your weight forward. You might need more support from orthotics, too, to reduce pressure on your forefoot. Physical therapy stretches and exercises may be a big help as well. Stretching out the tightness and strengthening weakened muscles can help fight the imbalance. If this is not enough, you may need something more.

If none of these options are effective and the problem continues, surgery might be a better treatment. If the toe is bent but can be corrected manually, then a simple procedure can be performed in the office setting.  No stitches, no incision. If the joint is “frozen” in the bent position, more invasive surgery may be necessary. Surgery can release imbalanced connectors and deal with any joint damage.

Preventing a Hammertoe

In many cases, hammertoes can actually be prevented, saving you pain. Always wear shoes that fit correctly so they don’t squeeze or scrunch your toes. Avoid high heels and other shoes that shift your weight forward—they can force your toes against the front of your shoes and squish them. If you need more foot support, make sure you have it either in your shoes or with custom orthotics. Exercise your feet so the muscles and connectors stay strong as well.

Hammertoes are common and easy to develop, but you don’t have to suffer with them. In fact, you shouldn’t. Let our experts at Far West Podiatric Medical Group help you straighten out any toes getting stuck in a bent position before they get worse. If you’re in the El Segundo, Redondo Beach, or Lawndale areas, just contact our Hawthorne, CA, office through our website or by calling (310) 675-0900.

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