Toes are supposed to lie straight and flat. Unfortunately for millions of Americans, that is no longer the case.
A hammertoe refers to any of the smaller toes that do not lay straight while standing. The toe remains “stuck” in a bent position with the middle joint arched up and the tip of the toe pointed downward. This deformity is at best unsightly, and at worst painfully uncomfortable.
Hammertoes most commonly affect the second digit, but any of the four smaller toes on either foot may be affected. They often start out mild and flexible, but without treatment, hammertoes will worsen, becoming stiff and/or rigid. It is better to deal with this deformity in the early stages to avoid the pain and difficulty associated with late-stage hammertoes.
How Are Hammertoes Treated?
If your hammertoe still has a flexible joint, we will usually recommend you wear a hammertoe regulator or Crest pad. Both devices are a soft type of splint with a cushioned pad for the underside of your foot and toe with adjustable straps that keep your hammertoe in a straightened position.
These splints will not “fix” your hammertoe, just like a pair of glasses will not “fix” your eyes. However, early and consistent use of the hammertoe regulator or Crest pad can help keep your hammertoe from reaching the rigid, painful, arthritic stage. It will also protect your toe from painful shoe friction, thus preventing the formation of corns, blisters, and ulcerations.
Other recommended conservative strategies include roomier shoes, orthotics, pads, or toe exercises.
If your hammertoe becomes rigid and is causing pain or limiting your daily activities on a regular basis, surgery will likely be your best choice. Hammertoe surgery can be performed as an outpatient procedure, under IV sedation, allowing you to return home the same day. Recovery usually takes four weeks, although this depends on the severity of your hammertoe and the type of procedure selected. We will obviously go over all these details with you carefully at your appointment.
Do not let the pain of a hammertoe keep you from doing what you love. Regardless of whether your hammertoe is already arthritic, or is still very flexible, please call Dr. Thomas J. Bobrowski and the team at InStride Crystal Coast Podiatry today for a full exam and personalized treatment options.