Everyone knows what toes are supposed to look like – facing forward and lying flat. It can be disconcerting then to see a toe with an abnormal bend. Understanding such toe deformities as hammertoes can help you recognize if it happens to you and learn what we can do about it here at Richardson Podiatry Associates.
Types of Bent Toes
Of the various toe deformities that can develop, three are quite similar in nature – hammertoes, mallet toes, and claw toes.They have commonalities, but differences as well, so it is beneficial to know exactly which condition you are experiencing:
- Hammertoes – In this deformity, the issue is found at the middle joint. The abnormal bend at this location causes the toe to bend down, towards the floor. This is most commonly seen affecting the second toe.
- Mallet Toes – This condition has the same kind of abnormal bend, but in a different joint. The joint closest to the front of the toe is bent down. It will most likely impact the second toe but can occur in others.
- Claw Toes – This particular deformity still has commonalities with the previous two, but also certain differences. One key distinction is that there is an upward bend in addition to the downward ones. The toe bends up at the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTPJ), right where the toe meets the foot. The other two joints both bend downwards. Additionally, claw toes usually affect all four of the smaller toes, instead of a single one.
Why Toe Deformities Occur
The underlying root cause is an imbalance in the muscles that control how the toes lie. When the muscle on one side is stronger than the other, the balance is thrown off and a bend develops. Specific causes behind this condition include:
- Trauma. Injuries that lead to jamming, stubbing, or breaking a toe can be responsible for a deformity developing.
- Nerve disorders or injury. When the nerves that control the muscles are damaged due to injury or disorder, uncommon bends in the toes can result.
- Footwear choices. Shoes that are excessively tight in the toe box, especially high-heeled ones, force the toes into curled positions that can eventually remain even when you are barefoot.
Treating Toe Deformities
If your toes are still flexible, switching to shoes that are roomier and provide more comfort may be beneficial. Since corns and calluses are commonly caused when a bent toe leads to excess friction or pressure from footwear, choosing a pair that has plenty of room can provide relief. In addition to different shoes, orthotics or pads can help to reposition an affected toe and relieve any accompanying pain and pressure.
Stretches and strengthening exercises help for some cases. We can provide ones that may work well for you, but a popular exercise is to pick up a thin towel or marbles using just the toes.
When conservative care isn’t sufficient, we will discuss surgical options. A surgical procedure can be used to release a tight tendon that keeps a toe from lying flat as intended. Depending on your case, it might also be beneficial to remove some bone tissue to help with straightening the problem toe. If this is the path you wish to pursue, we will carefully discuss the entire process together from the first step to your final recovery.
Treatment for Toe Deformities in Richardson, TX
When you begin noticing a case of hammertoes, mallet toes, or claw toes, come see our foot specialists as soon as possible. Early detection and care is essential for avoiding surgery. Contact Richardson Podiatry Associates today by calling (972) 690-5374 or use our online form to schedule your appointment.