There are a lot of very specific conditions of the feet and toes that people experience and don’t really stop to consider as problematic. This is true of a condition known as hammertoe or contracted toe.
What is Hammertoe?
To understand what hammertoe is let’s first look at what a normal, healthy foot looks like when viewed from the side. The little toe and all the other toes across the foot sit flat on the ground and the bones in the toes are straight but can bend to curl the toes.
Hammertoe occurs in all toes but the big toe and is actually a deformity where the toes curl under rather than being straight or flat on the ground. This is progressive in nature and, if not treated, the bent position will become rigid and will cause painful toe problems, especially when wearing shoes.
Causes of Hammertoe
While hammertoe can be inherited it is most often caused by wearing shoes that push the toes into that bent or cramped position. Very pointed shoes, such as women’s dress shoes, combined with high heels that force the weight forward on the ball of the feet are also major culprits in developing this condition.
Often a painful toe, or more than one toe, is the first sign that hammertoe is a problem. Initially the toes can be massaged and stretched to return to the normal, healthy foot position. However, with time and without changing the types of shoes you wear the toes will become rigid in that curled and bent position.
This will result in callouses and blisters on the top of the toes, extreme pain and a burning sensation in the affected toes. Treatment in the early stages of the condition includes treating the skin irritation, orthotics, getting rid of pointy, high heeled shoes from your wardrobe and splinting the toe to stretch the muscles and tendons to their normal position.
In some cases where the toes are rigid a minimally invasive surgical procedure can be used to effectively treat the condition. Talk to your podiatrist and see if this option is right for you to correct hammertoe.