Hammertoe is a common condition that affects one or more of your toes because of an imbalance in the joints and muscles in your foot. As a result of wearing tight shoes, narrow shoes, or the overuse of high heels, one or more of your toes develops a severe bend at the middle joint. You might retain some joint movement for a while, but eventually, a hammertoe can become rigid and immobile.
Podiatrist Albert Elhiani, DPM, specializes in diagnosing hammertoes, treating their symptoms, and stopping them from getting worse. Here at Eazy Foot & Ankle in the Pico Robertson area of Los Angeles, California, Dr. Elhiani checks the alignment and mobility of your hammertoes and can let you know what treatment is necessary.
The more flexible hammertoes may be amenable to treatment with padding, shoe modifications, or procedures with just a tiny needle. While severe hammertoes that are stiff and immobile may need surgery to restore their mobility, there are plenty of steps you can take to reduce discomfort and stop your hammertoe symptoms from worsening before it comes to that. Follow these tips from Dr. Elhiani.
Choose footwear that fits
Simply verifying the size of a shoe and assuming it will fit your foot doesn’t suffice when it comes to easing hammertoe discomfort or preventing hammertoes in the first place. Be sure to try shoes on and walk around in them before you purchase them. It is extremely important to make sure you are wearing the correct size shoe. While this seems obvious, many people have a longer second toe, if you happen to have a longer second toe the shoe should be fitted according to the length of your second toe. Tight and compressive shoes will often cause hammering of the toe as there is really no where else for your toe to go.
While narrow or high-heeled shoes may look perfect for a dressy occasion, you should stick to shoes that give your feet plenty of space in the toe and on the sides. Avoiding shoes with pointed toes is another good rule of thumb for preventing hammertoe and other foot complications.
It’s equally important to find a shoe with plenty of arch support. Shoes that support your feet’s arches allow an adequate pressure balance across the soles of your feet. As an added bonus, shoes with good arch support help prevent pain or injuries in your legs, hips, and spine.
Apply ice to painful areas
An ice pack is a versatile solution for many types of musculoskeletal pain and swelling, and symptoms of hammertoe are no exception. When the toe is angry or inflamed, apply an ice pack to the toe joint to reduce inflammation. To avoid a skin burn, wrap the ice pack in a cloth of some kind.
Additionally, you may use over-the-counter medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help relieve soreness.
Invest in a hammertoe pad
Cushioning your toes with a specialized pad or silicone sleeve can take the pressure off of calluses or corns that have formed on your hammertoe. Calluses and corns are common complications from hammertoes and are the result of pressure displacement across the toe due to the muscular imbalance.
Some hammertoe pads, cushions, and sleeves are designed to straighten and realign a hammertoe, which can reduce pain within the joint.
See a podiatrist
Dr. Elhiani can show you exercises that stretch your foot muscles to prevent the muscle imbalance from worsening. He also may prescribe custom orthotics to wear inside your shoes that help manage hammertoe pain and discomfort.
If your toes are frequently uncomfortable or swollen because of hammertoe, don’t hesitate to schedule an evaluation by phone or online at Eazy Foot & Ankle today.