Hammertoe is a deformity of the toe in which the toe bends downward at the middle joint, causing it to resemble a hammer. Hammertoes usually begin as mild problems, but over time they can develop into severe cases.
Although some people haven’t even heard of it, an alarming number of people worldwide suffer from hammer toes. According to experts, approximately 54% of people around the globe suffer from the chronic condition to a certain degree.
Hammertoe is a medical condition in which a person’s second toe is bent downward, and the middle joint is curled up. In the beginning, when the symptoms are mild, the person suffering from it probably won’t even notice it. And in places like Australia, where people wear thongs throughout the year, noticing hammer toes is especially hard.
If you don’t know much about hammer toes, you’ve come to the right place. Podiatry First provides expert treatment for various infections and conditions, including hammertoe. Let’s explore the common causes of hammertoe, symptoms and available Sydney hammer toe treatments.
What causes hammer toes?
Hammertoe results from shoes that don’t fit properly or a muscle imbalance, usually combined with one or more other factors. Muscles work in pairs to straighten and bend the toes. If the toe is bent and held in one position long enough, the muscles tighten and cannot stretch out.
Shoes that narrow toward the toe may make your forefoot look smaller. But they also push the smaller toes into a flexed (bent) position. The toes rub against the shoe, leading to the formation of corns and calluses, which further aggravate the condition.
A higher heel forces the foot down and squishes the toes against the shoe, increasing the pressure and the bend in the toe. Eventually, the toe muscles cannot straighten the toe, even when there is no confining shoe.
In most cases, the condition is caused by an imbalance in the muscles surrounding the middle toe joint. The muscles in your foot need to work together to bend and strengthen your toes. If one of the muscles becomes weaker, the toe will start bending. If it stays in that position for too long, it won’t be able to straighten out.
But that’s not the only cause of hammertoe. Other common causes include:
- Harsh foot injuries
- Chronic arthritis
- High foot arches
- Wearing small shoes
- Tightened foot ligaments
- Flat feet
- Injury or trauma in which the toe is jammed or broken
- Diseases that affect the nerves and muscles, such as arthritis
- Abnormal foot mechanics due to nerve or muscle damage, causing an imbalance of the flexor and extensor tendons of the toe
Common symptoms of hammer toes
The bent toe joint is the most obvious symptom. However, once the toe starts curling up, the condition has progressed enough for the toe to become completely stiff. As time goes by, straightening the toe can become practically impossible.
An early symptom is the blistering of the affected toe. Blisters and corns start forming as your shoe rubs the curled-up finger. This usually happens at the top of the toe, preventing you from taking long walks due to the unbearable pain.
Symptoms hammer toe can cause include:
- Hammer-like or claw-like appearance of the toe
- Pain when walking or moving the foot
- Difficulty moving the toe
- Corns forming on top of the toe
- Calluses forming on the sole
If the condition is left untreated and the toe becomes permanently fixed, the only option is surgery, where the surgeon will cut tendons and remodel foot muscles. It is a complex surgery that does not guarantee results.
Corns on top of the toes can become infected and cause secondary problems to the deformity. Immunosuppressed people, such as diabetics and rheumatoid patients, can also risk infection.
Hammer toes are often flexible during the initial stages, and if treatment is administered promptly, symptoms can be managed with non-surgical methods. But if time passes and you do not seek treatment, your hammer toe will become more rigid, and surgical treatment may be required.
If it goes unnoticed, a person would not need to visit a doctor. However, the toe will become stiff after a while until it gets stuck in a claw-like pose. In some situations, other toes become affected by the condition, which can prohibit the patient from walking normally.
Conservative treatment is the best option if caught in the early stages. Still, there is a range of effective treatments for hammer toes, including:
- Custom-made shoe inserts (orthotics) that will help redistribute weight and ease the position of the toe
- Footwear with a wide and deep toe box
- Stretching and strengthening of muscles
- Surgery for advanced cases
No matter what kind of treatment your hammertoe condition requires, at Podiatry First, we’ll tailor a solution to suit your condition.
Can hammer toes be avoided or stopped?
The best preventive hammer toe treatment is wearing shoes that fit you perfectly and have a quality, supportive footbed. You risk developing several hammer toes if a shoe is too narrow or too short for your foot.
The heel shouldn’t be higher than two inches, and the toe box should give your toes at least half an inch of space between the toes and the tip of the shoe. To prevent hammer toes in children, make sure to buy them shoes every six months to prevent injuries from growth spurts.
Choose Podiatry First for hammer toe treatment in Sydney
At Podiatry First, we specialise in resolving all kinds of foot-related issues, giving you effective and simple treatments to banish painful conditions for good. As well as our comprehensive hammer toes treatment in Sydney, we also offer:
- Foot care treatment
- Laser fungal nail treatment
- Ingrown toenail treatment
- Swift wart removal and wart therapy
- Biomechanical assessment
- Shockwave therapy
- Osteoarthritis treatment
If you’re ready to get hammer toe treatment in Sydney, don’t wait any longer. Contact us today at your local Sydney CBD, Bondi Junction or Miranda location, and see how our team can help you enjoy a more comfortable step every day.