Your feet take on a lot of pressure daily, putting them at risk for various conditions, from bunions to hammertoes. If you have a hammertoe, getting your foot into that favorite pair of shoes is difficult – but what can you do?
Early treatment for hammertoes is typically conservative as long as the toe is still flexible. However, as the deformity progresses, it's less likely to get better through nonsurgical measures.
At Beltsville Foot and Ankle Center, Dr. David Deiboldt and his team provide noninvasive and surgical treatments for various foot and ankle conditions.
Dr. Deiboldt is an experienced podiatrist offering surgical intervention for anyone with a hammertoe that doesn't get relief through conservative treatments.
What are hammertoes?
A hammertoe is a foot deformity that typically happens to the middle three toes. They happen when an outside force puts pressure on the foot and toes, causing the middle three toes to bend upward at the middle joint.
The result is a toe or toes that appear to bend at all times instead of laying straight as they should. The second joint of the toe is usually where the deformity occurs.
Initially, hammertoes don't affect your ability to wear shoes or walk unless they progress without treatment. Unfortunately, hammertoes are extremely common and comprise about 20% of foot issues.
You can usually tell when a hammertoe is forming because the middle of the toe joint points upward, resembling a hammer. However, you may have other symptoms that include:
- Pain on the toe
- Callus formation
You might also have trouble moving the affected toes. The symptoms get worse as the hammertoe progresses, especially without treatment.
Flexible vs rigid: What is the difference?
Different types of hammertoes affect the three middle toes of the foot – flexible, semi-rigid, and rigid. Every kind of hammertoe has progressing symptoms, eventually causing the toe to stay in the "hammer" shape.
Flexible hammertoes are the easiest for us to treat because there's still movement in the joint. You can uncurl a flexible hammertoe by yourself. You may be able to correct them through conservative measures like changes in footwear, exercises, or orthotics.
As flexible hammertoes progress, they become semi-rigid, making them harder to straighten independently. The middle joint of the affected toe becomes more stiff, making it difficult to wear shoes because of pain.
Rigid hammertoes are the most severe form of the problem and happen when the toe is entirely inflexible. You usually can't straighten the toe at all, causing various issues. At this point, you might need invasive treatments for relief.
Is surgery the only option?
Not everyone with a hammertoe needs surgery to correct the deformity. Dr. Deiboldt typically begins treatment using conservative measures. However, if you don't get treatment when the hammertoe is flexible, you might need surgery to correct a severe deformity.
Dr. Deiboldt can treat flexible and semi-rigid hammertoes through conservative measures. He recommends toe exercises, orthotics, and taping or padding to relieve symptoms associated with the hammertoe.
However, if you don't respond to conservative treatments or you have a rigid hammertoe, you may need surgery for permanent relief. Surgery is often the last resort because it's invasive and requires a recovery period.
Pain and other symptoms that cause daily discomfort or the inability to wear shoes or walk correctly are typical signs you might need surgery for a hammertoe.
Dr. Deiboldt discusses your options at your appointment and suggests surgery based on your symptoms and the severity of the hammertoe.
Call the Beltsville, Maryland office for hammertoe treatments, or request a consultation with Dr. Dieboldt using our convenient online scheduling tool.