Hammertoes are painful deformities that frequently form on the second, third, or fourth toe. The condition is often caused by an issue in foot mechanics. This can be caused by the person’s specific gait or the manner in which they walk, or by shoes that do not comfortably fit the deformity. Hammertoes can be formed after wearing shoes that are too narrow or short for the foot or have excessively high heels. Shoes that are not properly sized will force the toes into a bent position for long periods of time. This can cause the muscles to shorten and toes to bend into the deformity of a hammertoe.
Hammertoe can also be caused by complications from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, trauma to the foot, heredity, or a cerebral vascular accident. Pain and difficult mobility of the toes, deformities, calluses, and corns are all symptoms of a hammertoe.
Someone who suspects they have the symptoms of a hammertoe should consult with a physician—particularly a podiatrist. Podiatrists diagnose and treat complications of the foot and ankle. If the podiatrist discovers that the affected toes are still flexible, treatment for the hammertoe may simply involve exercise, physical therapy, and better-fitting shoes. Treatment for hammertoes typically involves controlling foot mechanics, such as walking, through the use of customized orthotics.
For more serious cases in which the toes have become inflexible and rigid, surgery may be suggested. During the operation, the toe would receive an incision to relieve pressure on the tendons. A re-alignment of the tendons may then be performed by removing small pieces of bone to straighten the toe. In some cases, the insertion of pins is needed to keep the bones in the proper position as the toe heals. The patient is usually allowed to return home on the same day as the surgery.
If surgery is performed to repair a hammertoe, following the postoperative directions of your doctor is essential. Directions may include several stretches, picking up marbles with your toes, or attempting to crumple a towel placed flat against your feet. Wear shoes that have low heels and a wide amount of toe space to maintain comfort. Closed-toe shoes and high heels should be avoided. Shoes with laces allow the wearer to adjust how fitted he or she may want the shoes to be and also allow for greater comfort. To provide adequate space for your toes, select shoes that have a minimum of one-half inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the inside of the shoe. This will also relieve pressure on your toes and prevent future hammertoes from forming.
Other preventative measures that can be taken include going shopping for new shoes in the middle of the day. Your feet are its smallest in the morning and swell as the day progresses. Trying on and purchasing new shoes midday will give you the most reliable size. Be sure to check that the shoes you purchase are both the same size. If possible, ask the store to stretch out the shoes at its painful points to allow for optimum comfort.
The forefoot is composed of five metatarsal bones and fourteen phalanges. Each toe has three phalanges except for the big toe which only has two. Our toes play an essential role to the walking process, which is why a broken toe could seriously disrupt one’s ability to move around. Toe fractures are common and can be very painful. Fortunately, these injuries rarely require surgery and usually heal with rest and a change in activity.
Broken toes typically result from a traumatic event such as falling, stubbing the toe, or dropping something on the toe. Traumatic toe fractures may be categorized as either minor or severe fractures. At times, one may hear a “pop” or “crack” sound when the bone breaks. Common symptoms of a traumatic toe fracture include pain, throbbing, bruising, swelling, and redness.
Another type of toe fractures is a stress fracture. These injuries usually appear in the form of small hairline breaks on the bone. Stress fractures develop after repetitive activity instead of a single injury. Stress fractures occur when the muscles in the bone become too weak to absorb impact. Consequently, the toe bone becomes vulnerable to any pressure and impact it endures. Symptoms for a stress fracture in the toe include swelling without bruising, tenderness to the touch, pain that goes away with rest, and pain after walking or running.
If you suspect that you have a broken toe, you should make an appointment with your podiatrist. He or she will likely diagnose you by performing a physical exam and an X-ray. Treatment for a broken toe may include the R.I.C.E. method, buddy taping, surgery, or antibiotics. The R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) is a common treatment method for many injuries because it decreases pain. Buddy tapping involves wrapping the injured toe next to an adjacent toe to keep it supported and protected. These two methods have proven to be effective in the healing process for toe fractures. The estimated healing time for a broken toe is approximately four to six weeks. If the injury becomes infected or requires surgery, the estimated healing time may take eight weeks or more.
Your feet endure a great amount of stress each day from constantly allowing us to move around. It is important to stretch your feet to help prevent them from becoming injured. Your toes may easily deform into unhealthful positions if they are not stretched.
One of the most common reasons for toe deformities are the shoes you may be wearing. Shoes that are too tight may fold and shift the toes out of place. Heeled shoes may also push your toes upward. Forcing your toes into an unnatural position which may cause the muscles to tighten and prevent them from reverting to normal length. Another common reason is improper use of foot muscles. Many people fail to use the muscles in their feet or toes when they walk. Lastly, the positioning of your feet while walking may also cause toe deformities. If you walk with your feet facing outward, your “push-off” phase is on the side of your big toe instead of the bottom of your foot. This may cause the big toe to eventually tighten into a new shifted position.
There are many reasons why stretching your toes may be helpful. One reason is that healthy spacing may aid in avoiding calluses and other injuries that are caused by rubbing. Stretching will also prevent you from developing toes that curl, hammertoes, or bunions.
A great way to stretch your toes is to place them in your hands and bend them all downward; this will help you stretch the top of your foot. Next, you should repeat this process but instead bend them upward enough to feel a nice stretch in the bottom of your foot. You should then try to pull each toe apart from the next and pull any toes that are bent upward until they are back downward.
If you are looking to practice stretching your entire foot, you can try a towel stretch. This is done by sitting on the floor with your legs in front of you. Take a towel and wrap it around your toes. Afterward, pull the towel toward you with your toes and hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds before releasing. Practice this stretch for three sets. Another stretch your feet are towel lifts. This is done by sitting in a chair and trying to pick a towel up from the ground with your toes. Try lifting the towel with your little toes for five sets before switching feet.
If you are an athlete, or exercise often, it is especially important for you to practice stretching your feet. Those who suffer from foot pain caused by poor footwear, plantar fasciitis, or long hours of standing at work may also benefit from foot exercises.