Hammertoe Treatments

Hammer ToeOverview

A hammertoe is a deformity in the foot, causing the second, third, or fourth toe to be permanently bent in the middle joint, causing the toe to resemble a hammer (hence, its name!) or a claw. They are most commonly found in women who wear narrow shoes, such as high heels, that cause the toes to bend unnaturally for extended periods of time. A hammertoes may be difficult or painful to move, and the skin may become callused from rubbing against the inside of the shoe. In fact, there are two types of hammertoe: flexible and rigid. Flexible hammertoes can still move at the joint and are indicative of an earlier, milder form of the problem. Rigid hammertoes occur when the tendon no longer moves, and at this stage, surgery is usually necessary to fix the problem.

Causes

But what causes the imbalance of the tendons and muscles in the first place so that they begin to pull and bend the joint? A bad fitting shoe could be the cause but it usually isn?t the primary cause. Many people are genetically predisposed to hammertoe, and the condition begins to progress more quickly when they wear shoes that fit poorly, for example pointy toes, high heels, or shoes that are too short. Hammertoe may also be caused by damage to the joint as a result of trauma.

Hammer ToeSymptoms

Here is a look at some of the symptoms hammertoe can cause. They include hammer-like or claw-like appearance of the toe. Pain when walking or moving the foot. Difficulty moving the toe. Corns may form on top of the toe. Callus may form on the sole of the foot. During the initial stages, you may be able to manually straighten your toe. This is called a flexible hammertoe. But as time passes, the toe will not move as easily and will continue to look like a hammer. Pressure and irritation over the joint can cause a blister to develop and become a corn over time. These corns have the potential to become infected and cause additional symptoms such as redness, bleeding, and difficulty wearing shoes and socks. Corns are the main cause of pain when hammertoes are developing.

Diagnosis

First push up on the bottom of the metatarsal head associated with the affected toe and see if the toe straightens out. If it does, then an orthotic could correct the problem, usually with a metatarsal pad. If the toe does not straighten out when the metatarsal head is pushed up, then that indicates that contracture in the capsule and ligaments (capsule contracts because the joint was in the wrong position for too long) of the MTP joint has set in and surgery is required. Orthotics are generally required post-surgically.

Non Surgical Treatment

Apply a commercial, nonmedicated hammertoe pad around the bony prominence of the hammertoe. This will decrease pressure on the area. Wear a shoe with a deep toe box. If the hammertoe becomes inflamed and painful, apply ice packs several times a day to reduce swelling. Avoid heels more than two inches tall. A loose-fitting pair of shoes can also help protect the foot while reducing pressure on the affected toe, making walking a little easier until a visit to your podiatrist can be arranged. It is important to remember that, while this treatment will make the hammertoe feel better, it does not cure the condition. A trip to the podiatric physician?s office will be necessary to repair the toe to allow for normal foot function. Avoid wearing shoes that are too tight or narrow. Children should have their shoes properly fitted on a regular basis, as their feet can often outgrow their shoes hammertoe rapidly. See your podiatric physician if pain persists.

Surgical Treatment

Surgical correction is necessary in more severe cases and may consist of removing a bone spur (exostectomy) removing the enlarged bone and straightening the toe (arthroplasty), sometimes with internal fixation using a pin to realign the toe; shortening a long metatarsal bone (osteotomy) fusing the toe joint and then straightening the toe (arthrodesis) or simple tendon lengthening and capsule release in milder, flexible hammertoes (tenotomy and capsulotomy). The procedure chosen depends in part on how flexible the hammertoe is.

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The Facts About Over-Pronation

Overview

Foot types can be divided into three major groups: the flat foot (Pes Planus), the high arched foot (Pes Valgus) and the normal to low arched foot. A true ‘flat foot’ is very rare. In fact, less than 5% of the population have flat feet i.e. a foot with no arch present whatsoever and the entire bottom surface of the foot being flat on the ground. About 5-10% of people have a high arched foot. The majority of the population have a normal to low arch. Even though the arches appear to be normal most of us suffer from over-pronation during walking, running and standing, due to the hard, flat unnatural surfaces we walk on, combined with wearing unsupportive footwear. With every step we take the arches flatten and the ankles roll inwards. Pronation itself is not wrong because we need to pronate and supinate as part of our natural gait cycle. Pronation (rolling in) acts as a shock-absorbing mechanism and supination (rolling out) helps to propel our feet forward. Over-pronation occurs when the foot pronates too deep and for too long, not allowing the foot to ‘recover’ and supinate. Over-pronation hampers our natural walking pattern. It causes an imbalance and leads to wear and tear in several parts of the body with every step we take.Over-Pronation

Causes

Overpronation often occurs in people with flat feet, whose plantar fascia ligament is too flexible or too long, and therefore unable to properly support the longitudinal arch of the foot. People tend to inherit the foot structure that leads to overpronation. In a normal foot the bones are arranged so that two arches are formed, the longitudinal and the transverse. Ligaments hold all the bones in their correct positions, and tendons attach muscles to bones. If the bones are held together too loosely, they will tend to move inwards as this is the easiest direction for them to go. Over time the soft tissue structures will adjust to the misalignment and the foot will become permanently over-flexible, with a flat arch.

Symptoms

Not all foot injuries affecting runners are necessarily down to a particular running gait; it is rarely that simple to diagnose how a foot problem developed . Simply being an overpronator does not mean that a foot injury has been caused by the running gait and it could be due to a number of factors. However mild to severe overpronators tend to be at a higher risk of developing musculoskeletal problems due to the increased stresses and strains which are placed on the body when the foot does not move in an optimum manner. The following injuries are frequently due to overpronation of the feet. Tarsal tunnel syndrome. Shin splints. Anterior compartment syndrome. Plantar fasciitis. Achilles tendonitis. Bunions. Sesamoiditis. Stress fractures. Back and hip pain. Ankle pain.

Diagnosis

A quick way to see if you over-pronate is to look for these signs. While standing straight with bare feet on the floor, look so see if the inside of your arch or sole touches the floor. Take a look at your hiking or running shoes; look for wear on the inside of the sole. Wet your feet and walk on a surface that will show the foot mark. If you have a neutral foot you should see your heel connected to the ball of your foot by a mark roughly half of width of your sole. If you over-pronate you will see greater than half and up to the full width of your sole.Over-Pronation

Non Surgical Treatment

Adequate footwear can often help with conditions related to flat feet and high arches. Certified Pedorthists recommend selecting shoes featuring heel counters that make the heel of the shoe stronger to help resist or reduce excessive rearfoot motions. The heel counter is the hard piece in the back of the shoe that controls the foot?s motion from side-to-side. You can quickly test the effectiveness of a shoe?s heel counter by placing the shoe in the palm of your hand and putting your thumb in the mid-portion of the heel, trying to bend the back of the shoe. A heel counter that does not bend very much will provide superior motion control. Appropriate midsole density, the firmer the density, the more it will resist motion (important for a foot that overpronates or is pes planus), and the softer the density, the more it will shock absorb (important for a cavus foot with poor shock absorption) Wide base of support through the midfoot, to provide more support under a foot that is overpronated or the middle of the foot is collapsed inward.

Prevention

With every step we take, we place at least half of our body weight on each foot (as we walk faster, or run, we can exert more than twice our body weight on each foot). As this amount of weight is applied to each foot there is a significant shock passed on to our body. Custom-made orthotics will absorb some of this shock, helping to protect our feet, ankles, knees, hips, and lower back.