Foot deformities like hammertoes, claw toes and bunions are painful and unsightly, but treatment may help reduce discomfort and improve appearance. If the joints in your toes are misshapen, calloused and in pain throughout the day, you may have one of these common conditions.
A bunion is a condition referred to as hallux valgus in medical terminology. If a bunion develops, a patient may experience pain, swelling, and stiffness in the big toe. Redness and soreness on the skin of the big toe can also be present. A bony knot may develop on the joint at the base of the outer side of the big toe, making it hard to find shoes that fit properly. This condition is typically a result of tight-fitting shoes and arthritis, but it can also be hereditary.
A hammer toe is a condition in which the second joint of the toe or toes is abnormally bent or curved. Unlike a bunion which affects only the appearance of the big toe, this condition can affect any of the toes or more than one toe at a time. Mallet toe is similar to a hammer toe, but it affects the joint closest to the toenail instead of the middle joint. These conditions can make walking painful and difficult and it may create irritating corns and calluses.
This condition can be caused by tight footwear and heels, a traumatic injury to the toes or an imbalance or looseness in the muscles and tendons of the toes, causing them to perpetually contract or bend. It may also be present in arthritis sufferers.
Claw toes are, in the simplest terms, a combination of hammertoes and mallet toes. Claw toes affect the middle toe joint and joint nearest the toenail. This condition causes the toe or toes to take on a “c” shape. It can be a result of nerve damage, ill-fitting shoes or genes.
Treatment for these foot deformities is typically minimally invasive. If the condition is caught early, treatment may be as simple as wearing looser shoes, performing daily stretching techniques, wearing a foot pad that redistributes weight and relieves pressure, using toe braces and taking anti-inflammatory medication.
If scar tissue has developed or bone spurs are present, an arthroplasty or joint release procedure may be needed. During an arthroplasty, a part of the joint may be removed to reduce tension on the ligaments and tendons surrounding the joint. During a joint release, an incision on the top of the toe joint is made that releases tight ligaments and tendons. Once the toe moves back into proper alignment, sutures or metal pins will hold it in place as it heals.
Physical therapy could be needed following these procedures to introduce proper movement patterns and healthy muscle balance within the toes. This reduces the likelihood of the condition occurring again.
To learn more about how hammertoes and bunions develop and how treatment can help, schedule an appointment soon. The sooner treatment takes place, the more effective it will be.