We know it can be disconcerting when you look down at your toes and notice that some of them bend strangely. Even worse is when you experience discomfort and are unable to perform favorite activities or comfortably wear shoes due to an abnormally-curled toe. There are various types and causes of toe deformities, but one commonality amongst them is the fact you can schedule an appointment with Dr. Matt Wettstein at Advanced Foot and Ankle for the effective treatment you need.
Hammertoes and Related Conditions
We find that many people are already reasonably familiar with bunions, but there are three other toe deformities—hammertoes, mallet toes, and claw toes—that can develop. These conditions are fairly similar in a couple of regards, but they also possess certain differences as well. If you know what to look for, it can be fairly easy to distinguish between these toe abnormalities:
- Hammertoes – The abnormal bend happens at the middle toe joint. This results in a toe that forms a peak in the middle and points down towards the floor. Typically, hammertoes only affects the second toe.
- Mallet Toes – The abnormal downwards bend is located in the joint closest to the tip of the toe, and also is most commonly seen in the second toe. Most of the toe lies straight, but the end section bends down.
- Claw Toes – Claw toes feature an upward bend in addition to two downward ones. The upward bend happens at the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint at the base of the toe. The other two joints in the toe both bend down. Additionally, all four of the smaller toes are usually impacted by this condition, instead of a single toe.
All three conditions appear unusual, but they can also be painful, make it difficult to wear shoes, and even affect your balance. Severe cases can make it hard to walk and disrupt your natural gait pattern.
Why Toe Deformities Develop
Essentially, the underlying root cause of these abnormal toes is muscular imbalance, specifically with the muscles controlling how toes lie. When either a top or bottom muscle is stronger than its opposite, the balance is thrown off and the toe bends. Causes for this imbalance include:
- Nerve injury or disorder. When the nerves controlling these muscles are damaged—either by injury or disorder—hammertoe, mallet toe, or claw toes can develop.
- Physical trauma. Injuries resulting in jammed, stubbed, or broken toes can be responsible for a deformity developing.
- Footwear choices. There is a certain degree of debate over this in the medical community, but excessively tight shoes can force toes into curled positions. Over time, the muscles can become rigid and lead to the condition.
Treating Toe Deformities
If the affected toes are still flexible, you may benefit from simply switching to footwear that is roomier and more comfortable. Calluses and blisters can develop when an abnormal bending results in excess pressure or friction from footwear choices, so opting for models with deep toe boxes can provide relief. Beyond the shoes themselves, we can provide padding or custom orthotic devices to reposition the toe and relieve pressure and pain.
In some cases, when the condition is addressed at an early stage, strengthening and stretching exercises are beneficial. Dr. Matt Wettstein might prescribe specific exercises for you.
When conservative care doesn’t lead to desired results, we provide an array of surgical treatment options. Depending on your specific case, we may need to release a tight tendon, remove some bone tissue (arthroplasty), perform joint fusion, or move tendons to correct the deformity. If this is the recommended course of hammertoe treatment, we will discuss the entire process together so you can know what to expect.
Treatment for Toe Deformities in Twin Falls, ID
If you have noticed the development of claw, mallet, or hammertoes, or are experiencing pain from any of these conditions, schedule an appointment with Advanced Foot and Ankle for diagnosis and treatment. You can connect with our Twin Falls, ID podiatrist office by calling (208) 731-6321 or take advantage of our online form to schedule your appointment today.