You likely expect your feet to appear a certain way. When something doesn’t look right, there is a strong possibility it needs to be fixed. Dr. Yuko Miyazaki provides care and treatment at our Berkeley, CA office for many foot and ankle problems, including hammertoes.
In a hammertoe condition, toes are curled in an unusual manner. This is caused by an imbalance in the strength of connective and muscular tissues. It can be the source of many problems, but Dr. Miyazaki can provide the treatment you need.
Hammertoes and Related Conditions
When it comes to toe deformities, there are actually three that 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 what you are experiencing. These deformities can be explained as such:
- Hammertoes – In this condition, the deformity happens 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 – Very similar to a case of hammertoe, mallet toe has the same kind of abnormal bend, but only in a different joint. There is still an abnormal downwards bend, only with a case of mallet toe it takes place in the joint closest to the front of the toe. Similar to a hammertoe, this condition will most likely impact the second toes.
- Claw Toes – Whereas this particular deformity still has commonalities with the previous two, it has certain differences. One key distinction between claw toes and the other deformities is the fact that there is an upwards bend in addition to the downwards ones. This bend takes place at the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTPJ), right where the toe meets the foot. The other two joints both bend downwards, like if the previous two conditions were combined. Additionally, claw toes usually happen to all four of the smaller toes, instead of a singular one.
The underlying root cause of toe deformities is an imbalance in the muscles that control how the toes lay. 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:
- Footwear choices. Shoes that are excessively tight in the toe box, especially high-heeled ones, force the toes into a curled positions that can eventually be held even when an individual is barefoot.
- Nerve disorders or injury. When the nerves that control the muscles are damaged due to injury or disorder, it commonly leads to the development of hammertoes, mallet toes, and claw toes.
- Injuries that lead to jamming, stubbing, or breaking a toe can be responsible for a deformity developing.
Treating Toe Deformities
When patient toes are still flexible, it may simply be beneficial to switch to shoes that are roomier and provide more comfort. Given that corns and calluses are commonly caused when toe deformities lead to excess friction or pressure from footwear, choosing a pair that has plenty of room can provide relief. In addition to the shoes themselves, 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 it is 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, from the first step to your final recovery, together.
If you have any questions about hammertoes, hammertoe treatment, or the other services Dr. Miyazaki provides, please give us a call at (510) 647-3744 and our staff will be glad to help. While you are on the phone, be sure to set up your appointment at our Berkeley, CA podiatrist office. If you’d prefer, take a moment and contact us through our online form right now.