If you sneak a peek at your feet and notice that your toes are crossed, bent, or just pointing at an odd angle, you probably suffer from a Hammer toe. Toes that are scrunched up inside tight shoes or pressed against the toe box of the shoe can bend at the joints and stay that way - resulting in a hammertoe. A hammertoe is a contracture of the toe at one of the two joints in the toe. Due to the pull of the tendons, the joints become more rigid over time. The toe is bent up at the joint and does not straighten out.
Risk factors for hammertoe include heredity, a second toe that is longer than the first (Morton foot), high arches or flat feet, injury in which the toe was jammed, rheumatoid arthritis, and, in diabetics, abnormal foot mechanics resulting from muscle and nerve damage. Hammertoe may be precipitated by advancing age, weakness of small muscles in the foot (foot intrinsic muscles), and the wearing of shoes that crowd the toes (too tight, too short, or with heels that are too high). The condition is more common in females than in males.
Hammer toe is often distinguished by a toe stuck in an upside-down ?V? position, and common symptoms include corns on the top of your toe joint. Pain at the top of a bent toe when you put on your shoes. Pain when moving a toe joint. Pain on the ball of your foot under the bent toe. Corns developing on the top of the toe joint. It is advisable to seek medical advice if your feet hurt on a regular basis. It is imperative to act fast and seek the care of a podiatrist or foot surgeon. By acting quickly, you can prevent your problem from getting worse.
The treatment options vary with the type and severity of each hammer toe, although identifying the deformity early in its development is important to avoid surgery. Your podiatric physician will examine and X-ray the affected area and recommend a treatment plan specific to your condition.
Non Surgical Treatment
Conservative treatment is the first choice, often starting with a change of shoes to ones that hammertoe have soft, larger toe spaces. Toe exercises may be prescribed to stretch and strengthen the toe muscles. Over-the-counter straps, cushions or non-medicated corn pads may be recommended to help relieve your symptoms.
If these treatments are not sufficient at correcting the hammer toe, an operation to straighten the toe may be necessary. This is often performed in conjunction with surgery for a bunion deformity. The surgical treatment of a hammer toe can consist of either cutting the tendons to relieve the pressure that causes the deformity, or fusing the toe so that it points straight permanently.
If the above simple measures do not make you comfortable, an operation may improve the situation. An operation will not give you an entirely normal foot, but it will correct the deformity of the big toe and narrow your foot back towards a more desirable shape. There are a lot of different operations for bunions, depending on the severity of the deformity, the shape of your foot and whether arthritis has developed in the big toe joint. An orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in foot & ankle surgery can advise you on the best operation for your foot. However, an operation may not make your foot narrow enough to wear tight shoes, nor can it fully restore the strength of the big toe.
During initial contact or heel strike, the ankle rolls inward, causing excessive pronation or flattening of the foot. This action forces the big toe (instead of the ball of foot and all toes) to do all the work to push off the ground. When the ankle overpronates, this causes the tibia (shin bone) to rotate and the femur (thigh bone) to adduct (move toward the mid-line of the body), causing internal rotation or knee valgus (knock-kneed).
In adults, the most common reason for the onset of Over-Pronation is a condition known as Post Tibial Tendonitis. This condition develops from repetitive stress on the main supporting tendon (Posterior Tibial Tendon) of the foot arch. As the body ages, ligaments and muscles can weaken. When this occurs the job of providing the majority of the support required by the foot arch is placed upon this tendon. Unfortunately, this tendon cannot bear the weight of this burden for too long. Eventually it fatigues under the added strain and in doing so the foot arch becomes progressively lower over a period of time.
With over pronation, sufferers are most likely to experience pain through the arch of the foot. A lack of stability is also a common complaint. Over pronation also causes the foot to turn outward during movement at the ankle, causing sufferers to walk along the inner portion of the foot. This not only can deliver serious pain through the heel and ankle, but it can also be the cause of pain in the knees or lower back as well. This condition also causes the arch to sink which places stress on the bones, ligaments, and tendons throughout the foot. This may yield other common conditions of foot pain such as plantar fasciitis and heel spurs.
At some point you may find the pain to much or become frustrated. So what are you options? Chances are your overpronation has led to some type of injury if there's pain. Your best bet is to consult with someone who knows feet. Start with your pediatrist, chiropodist or chiropractor. They'll be able to diagnose and treat the injury and give you more specific direction to better support your feet. One common intervention is a custom foot orthotic. Giving greater structural support than a typical shoe these shoe inserts can dramatically reduce overpronation.
Non Surgical Treatment
If a young child is diagnosed with overpronation braces and custom orthotics can be, conjunction with strengthening and stretching exercises, to realign the bones of the foot. These treatments may have to continue until the child has stopped growing, and orthotics may need to be worn for life in order to prevent the foot reverting to an overpronated state. Wearing shoes that properly support the foot, particularly the arch, is one of the most effective treatments for overpronation. Custom-made orthotic inserts can also be very beneficial. They too support the arch and distribute body weight correctly throughout the foot. Motion-control shoes that prohibit pronation can be worn, so may be useful for those with severe overpronation. One good treatment is to walk barefoot as often as possible. Not relying on shoes to support the arch will encourage proper muscle use. Practicing yoga can help to correct poor posture and teach you how to stand with your weight balanced evenly across the whole foot.
Subtalar Arthroereisis. The ankle and hindfoot bones/midfoot bones around the joint are fused, locking the bones in place and preventing all joint motion. This may also be done in combination with fusion at other joints. This is a very aggressive option usually reserved for extreme cases where no joint flexibility is present and/or the patient has severe arthritic changes in the joint.