7 Problems That Are Linked to Hammertoe

Jul 01, 2023
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Hammertoe affects lots of women and men, but fortunately, it can be treated. Here, learn seven complications associated with hammertoe that we can address with prompt, appropriate care.

Hammertoes, a common foot deformity, occurs when the end of a toe turns downward at the joint, forming a bent or clawlike shape. Hammertoes involve an imbalance between the opposing muscles that control your toe movement, and without prompt medical treatment, they can cause uncomfortable problems.

As a leading podiatry practice in midtown Manhattan and Staten Island, New York, Forward Foot & Ankle uses a patient-centered approach to hammertoe treatment, tailoring care based on the extent of joint damage and the symptoms you’re experiencing. 

In this post, our team reviews seven problems that can happen if you let a hammertoe go untreated.

1. Toe and foot pain

Not surprisingly, the bent, angled position of a hammertoe can cause considerable pain, especially when you bear weight on your foot or you’re wearing dress shoes or other tight shoes. 

The bent position of the toe increases pressure on surrounding tissue and sensitive nerves, which means you can have pain in other areas of your foot, too.

2. Corns and calluses

Corns and calluses develop where there’s excessive friction against your skin. Because hammertoes are bent, the joint typically rubs against footwear, eventually leading to painful corns and calluses.

3. Difficulty finding shoes that fit

Shoes are made to fit the average foot shape. Yes, you can buy shoes that are wider in the toe or heel (or both), but those changes alone do little to ease the discomfort of hammertoes. 

Because the toes are bent, they rub against the inner lining of your shoes, making many types of footwear especially uncomfortable. Custom orthotics definitely help, but for a long-term solution, medical therapy or surgery is the best way to find real relief.

4. Problems walking

Hammertoes affect walking in a couple of ways. First, because of their stiff, bent position, you can have a lot of toe pain every time you take a step. Corns and calluses can cause pain, as well. 

Second, the bent position of even a single toe can affect your balance, making it difficult for your toes to grip when you step and push off. These issues can be magnified if you’re wearing shoes that don’t fit properly.

5. Back and knee pain

Yes, your toes can absolutely affect your knees, hips, and back. When foot pain causes a change in the way you walk, it increases the strain and pressure on your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back. 

Over time, you can develop pain in any of these areas, limiting your range of movement and making other activities more difficult. 

6. Arthritis

Delaying treatment for hammertoe can cause permanent joint damage in the toe, eventually leading to arthritis. 

Because arthritis is a degenerative condition, it tends to become considerably worse over time. And since your toes have a bearing on the joints in your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back, hammertoes could increase your risk of arthritis in those joints, as well.

7. Aesthetic concerns

Hammertoe changes the way your feet look. If you love going barefoot or wearing sandals or other open-toed shoes, you might feel embarrassed about your toes’ appearance or self-conscious during a pedicure or relaxing foot massage. 

While aesthetic issues might not seem as important as physical complications, they can lead to stress and anxiety, especially in social situations.

Relief for your hammertoes

In their early stages, hammertoes may respond to conservative approaches, like physical therapy, gentle stretching, splints, and injections. But over time, the joint can become stiff and immobile, and surgery becomes the best option for long-term relief.

If you have one or more hammertoes, don’t delay treatment. Call us or book an appointment online with our team at Forward Foot & Ankle today.