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What Causes Hammertoe Problems?

Hammertoe is a deformity frequently treated by a foot specialist in The Woodlands, TX. The deformity causes one or more toes to bend down rather than pointing straight out. In most people, the deformity occurs in the second or third toe. This is most often a condition that develops over time rather than being present at birth, and there are different potential causes and risk factors that cause the deformity to develop. Here’s what you need to know about why hammertoe develops, how it can affect you, and how foot and ankle specialists may be able to treat it.

Why the Deformity Occurs

Hammertoe occurs when the middle joint of the toe starts to bend abnormally. This is the joint that’s closest to the nail. The middle joint becomes flexed and starts to bend downward instead of outward. The joint starts to bend in this direction, usually because there’s consistent pressure from different sources. Peripheral nerve damage may also cause the joint to bend downward, but this often affects all the toes rather than just the middle two or three.

Sources of Pressure

Wearing improperly fitting shoes is a common cause of hammertoe, especially in women who wear high heels that drastically increase pressure in the toe box. Shoes that are too tight or that prevent the toes from lying flat force the toe joints downward, and eventually, they’ll stay in that position even when barefoot. Injury or trauma, such as breaking a toe, can also cause hammertoe to develop. Conditions that cause tighter ligaments or tendons in the foot or pressure from a bunion can also create pressure on the toe joints. 

Risk Factors

In addition to wearing tight or pointy shoes, there are a few other risk factors that make it more likely that you’ll develop hammertoe. A family history of hammertoe increases your risk, and women are more likely to develop it as well. The risk increases with age, and those with a second toe that’s longer than the big toe are more likely to develop hammertoe. Foot problems such as bunions, corns, calluses, or blisters also increase the chance of hammertoe.

Preventing Hammertoe

You can often avoid hammertoe as well as other ankle and foot problems by wearing properly fitting shoes. When possible, avoid pointy shoes or very high heels. Make sure the shoes have adequate toe room, and for added comfort, look for shoes that are adjustable.

Hammertoe Problems

In the beginning stages of hammertoe, most people feel mild discomfort when walking because of the additional friction between the toes. However, if the condition isn’t addressed and treated properly, other complications can arise. These include severe pain while walking, corns and calluses, and the inability to flex the foot or wiggle the toes. This inflexibility is caused by the tendons contracting and tightening so that the toes become permanently bent and clawlike.

Treatment Options

When hammertoe is caught in the early stages, you can often correct it yourself by wearing properly fitting shoes. Some people may need insoles or pads to shift the toe’s position and correct the position. If bunions and corns are contributing to the development of hammertoe, a foot doctor in The Woodlands, TX,may recommend surgically removing them. Exercises recommended by your doctor can help strengthen and correct the joint position. Severe cases may require surgery to reposition the toe and remove deformed bones while realigning tendons and joints. To learn more about hammertoe treatments, contact Ankle & Foot Specialists of Conroe, The Woodlands today.