When you have hammertoe, your toe curls downward with the middle joint at the peak, giving it a hammer-like appearance. This condition can happen in the second, third, or fourth toe. In a healthy toe, tendons, ligaments, and muscles keep your toe lying flat and straight. Hammertoe can develop when these tissues become unbalanced, leaving the toe bent at an abnormal angle.
Hammertoe may not seem like a big deal. But, as the condition worsens, this common foot problem can cause severe deformity in the toe, loss of flexibility, and painful corns or calluses.
Fortunately, if you have hammertoe, John Jurcisin, DPM, and our team at Precision Footcare in Midtown East, New York City, can help. We run a state-of-the-art clinic that enables us to provide all forms of podiatric care, including minimally invasive laparoscopic procedures.
If you have hammertoe, Dr. Jurcisin often recommends these treatment strategies to restore toe alignment.
The first step in addressing hammertoe involves changing your shoes, especially if you wear high heels or narrow, pointy-toed styles.
Wearing footwear with a tight toe box can force your toes into a curled, cramped position. The longer this unnatural confinement persists, the more your toe muscles may tighten and continue to maintain this abnormal position.
Instead, Dr. Jurcisin recommends picking shoes that give your toes plenty of room. That means looking for a soft, roomy toe box and avoiding tight, narrow, or high-heeled shoes. You should also check your shoe length and pick a fit approximately half an inch longer than your longest toe.
As soon as you notice the signs of hammertoe, it’s critical to start exercising your toe tendons, ligaments, and muscles to prevent them from contracting and tightening even more. Once you lose this flexibility, your toe may remain permanently bent and require more invasive treatments to fix it.
To stretch and strengthen your toe muscles, Dr. Jurcisin suggests using your toes to pick up things. For example, put objects on the floor, such as a marble or pencil, and then use your toes to lift them. Or place a flat towel underneath your feet and then crumple it up with your toes.
You can also give your toes a gentle stretch using your hands.
When you develop deformities in your feet, they can cause additional issues, especially corns and calluses.
Corns and calluses describe thick, hardened layers of skin that form because of pressure and friction. Not only can these areas be unsightly, but they can also be extremely uncomfortable. In some cases, corns and calluses can develop due to hammertoe. If you eliminate the hammertoe, there is a good chance your corns or calluses will disappear on their own.
In the meantime, Dr. Jurcisin can work with you to create a detailed strategy to manage your pain and reduce irritation. This might include changing your shoes, trying orthotics, or adding padding to the area to relieve pressure. All the while, you should keep your toes soft and moisturized.
For severe corns or calluses, Dr. Jurcisin may trim or remove the thick, hardened skin.
Unfortunately, if you no longer have flexibility in your toe, surgery could be the only solution. With surgery, Dr. Jurcisin removes damaged or injured tissues, repositions your toe, and realigns your joints and tendons.
Dr. Jurcisin performs hammertoe surgery on an outpatient basis using minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques, and you should be able to go home the same day. And, if you have other foot problems, such as severe corns, heel spurs, or bunions, Dr. Jurcisin can often treat them at the same time.
To avoid foot surgery, Dr. Jurcisin recommends seeking medical attention as soon as you notice the signs of hammertoe.
For more information on treating and preventing hammertoe, book an appointment online or over the phone with Precision Footcare today.