Due to the complex nature of the human body, some conditions may form as the result of other problems and illnesses. As the feet are the foundation upon which all of your mobility is built, even minor issues can begin to develop into more severe consequences. Such is the case with hammertoes. When left untreated, this foot condition can compromise your body’s biomechanics and lead to further complications.

What it is

This condition is categorized by podiatrists as a foot deformity. A patient experiencing this condition will find that their toes are involuntarily bent upward along the middle joint, and thus resemble a hammer shape. You may first detect this condition by the occurrence of corns or calluses along the tops of or between your toes. This is a result of the unnatural bending causing friction with shoes and irritation of the skin. Hammertoes progressively become worse and more rigid with time, so early treatment will always be the best way to handle this foot problem. Without early intervention, surgery may be required to correct the problem.

Why it Happens

A variety of factors may lead to the development of this condition. While you may have a predisposition towards this deformity, it can also be acquired through muscle imbalances, the use of improper footwear, and sudden injury. Hammertoes are often formed by the inability of muscles within the foot to stretch out after being tightened for too long, so any shoe or constant action that forces the toes to bend can lead to its development. Many women commonly find that high heels play a significant role in the problem.

What to Watch

Often, you will first notice very subtle changes in your toes, but there are many characteristics that distinguish this condition from other foot conditions. You may experience inflammation of the affected toes including redness or a burning sensation. Your toe joints may involuntarily bend, causing corns or calluses on or between them—a tell-tale sign of hammertoes. This can actually make wearing shoes painful. In severe cases, open sores can develop, especially dangerous if you have diabetes.

What to Do

If you seek treatment early on, surgery can often be avoided in favor of more conservative methods. There are specific shoes, exercises, and foot devices that are designed to allow the foot to rest in a normal position.

You might opt for sandals or shoes with roomy toe boxes as they allow the toes to spread out comfortably. Dr. David Guhl and Dr. Amy Miller-Guhl will be happy to provide you with stretches and orthotic shoe inserts that will help alleviate discomfort.

If the deformity has been allowed to progress for too long, you will likely require surgical intervention. The surgery will generally involve the use of a local anesthetic, but the actual procedure will vary from patient to patient. Following hammertoe surgery, you can expect some stiffness and swelling. You will be able to walk, but should not overextend your activity.

When it comes to the health of your feet, you can never be too careful. At Waukesha Foot Specialists, Dr. David Guhl and Dr. Amy Miller-Guhl will be able to help you form a treatment plan for your unique needs. You can contact our Waukesha, WI office at (262) 544-0700.

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