4 Bothersome Hammertoe Symptoms

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4 Bothersome Hammertoe Symptoms

Hammertoe is a painful problem that can take a toll on even simple activities like walking. Knowing the symptoms can help you seek treatment as soon as possible, so you can find much-needed relief.

At first encounter, “hammertoe” sounds like the name of a superhero gifted with extremely strong, crime-fighting digits. But unfortunately, the truth is far less exciting. 

Hammertoe is actually a condition that happens when one of your toes is unnaturally bent, assuming the shape of a claw hammer. And rather than being the source of super-heroic strength, these deformed toes can wind up causing a lot of unpleasant symptoms.

At Alpine Foot and Ankle, Dr. Andrew McCall specializes in treatments that reduce hammertoe symptoms and restore the joint’s natural shape. In this post, learn about four common hammertoe symptoms that can be eliminated with prompt medical treatment.

1. Foot pain

Your feet are extremely flexible and mobile, comprising 33 joints and dozens of muscles, ligaments, and tendons. In a healthy foot, all these components work together to help you move, stand, and balance.

The unnatural bend in a hammertoe interferes with the way the foot moves, leading to significant pain in the toe that spreads to other areas of the foot, too. As the deformity progresses, you can expect worsening pain that can’t be relieved with home remedies, like massages or over-the-counter pain medicines.

2. Problems with footwear

Hammertoe can make it hard to find footwear that fits, especially in the toe area. The abnormal bend in the affected toe (or toes) can cause uncomfortable pinching and other painful symptoms, especially in dress shoes or other footwear with stiff or unforgiving fabric. 

When shoes don’t fit or cause pain, that can alter the way you walk, leading to other problems, like knee pain or back pain. It can also interfere with your balance, increasing your risk of falls. Plus, shoes with a tight toe area can actually make your hammertoe symptoms worse over time.

3. Painful corns and calluses

The unnatural bend in the toe joint is a common source of pain for people with hammertoes. But many people also suffer from painful corns and calluses that form where the joint rubs against the inside of footwear.

Both corns and calluses form as “defense mechanisms” designed to protect the foot from excessive friction and pressure. The thick layers of hardened skin press on tender underlying tissue, causing pain with virtually every step.

4. Reduced range of motion

While hammertoes may be flexible in their early stages, as time passes, increasing inflammation leads to joint stiffness and loss of mobility in the joint. Wearing shoes that are tight in the toe area can make inflammation and stiffness worse, too.

While stiffness can be painful on its own, reduced flexibility alters the way your foot moves, making it harder to walk, climb stairs, or do other activities that require your toes to bend. Like pain, stiffness can also lead to gait changes and an increased risk of balance problems.

Find relief for hammertoe

In the earliest stages of hammertoes, Dr. McCall prescribes conservative therapies, like custom orthotics, splinting, special exercises, and medications to reduce pain and inflammation in the earliest stages. For more advanced hammertoes where the joint has become stiff and inflexible, he recommends surgery to eliminate the abnormal bend in the joint.

If you have hammertoe, early treatment is the key to preventing complications. To learn how we can help, request an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. McCall at Alpine Foot and Ankle in Idaho Falls, Idaho, or Alpine, Wyoming.