Hammer Toes What Causes Them

HammertoeOverview

A hammertoes is a deformity of the second, third or fourth toe in which the toe becomes bent at the middle joint; hence, it resembles a hammer. Claw toe and mallet toe are related conditions. While a hammer toe is contracted at the first toe joint, a mallet toe is contracted at the second toe joint, and a claw toe is contracted at both joints. According to the 2012 National Foot Health Assessment conducted by the NPD Group for the Institute for Preventive Foot Health, 3 percent of U.S. adults age 21 and older (about 7 million people) have experienced hammer toe or claw toe. The condition is significantly more prevalent in females than in males.

Causes

Hammertoes are a contracture of the toes as a result of a muscle imbalance between the tendons on the top of the toes (extensor tendons) and the tendons on the bottom of the toes (flexor tendons). If there is an imbalance in hammertoe the foot muscles that stabilize the toe, the smaller muscles can be overpowered by the larger flexor and extensor muscles.

HammertoeSymptoms

The most obvious sign of hammertoes are bent toes, other symptoms may include pain and stiffness during movement of the toe. Painful corns on the tops of the toe or toes from rubbing against the top of the shoe’s toe box. Painful calluses on the bottoms of the toe or toes. Pain on the bottom of the ball of the foot. Redness and swelling at the joints.

Diagnosis

Most health care professionals can diagnose hammertoe simply by examining your toes and feet. X-rays of the feet are not needed to diagnose hammertoe, but they may be useful to look for signs of some types of arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis) or other disorders that can cause hammertoe. If the deformed toe is very painful, your doctor may recommend that you have a fluid sample withdrawn from the joint with a needle so the fluid can be checked for signs of infection or gout (arthritis from crystal deposits).

Non Surgical Treatment

Try to find shoes that are soft, roomy, and comfortable and avoid tight shoes or shoes with high heels. A shoe repair shop may be able to stretch a small pocket in regular shoes to make room for the hammertoe. Have a professional pedicure. Sometimes a skilled manicurist can file down a painful corn. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Ask your provider what activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities, how to take care of yourself at home, what symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them. Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

Surgical Treatment

If this fails or if treatment is not sought until the toes are permanently misaligned, then surgery may be required. Surgery may involve either cutting the tendon or fusing the joint. Congenital conditions should be treated in early childhood with manipulations and splinting.

The Facts About Overpronation Of The Foot

Overview

Normally, when you walk or run, your heel is the first part of your foot to strike the ground. As your body weight shifts to the middle of the foot, the arch of the foot naturally flattens out a bit. This flattening is called pronation. If your feet flatten more than normal, it?s called over-pronation or flat feet. Over-pronation can cause many problems, such as an Achilles tendon injury or heel pain. It may lead to knee problems.Foot Pronation

Causes

Overpronation often occurs in people with flat feet, whose plantar fascia ligament is too flexible or too long, and therefore unable to properly support the longitudinal arch of the foot. People tend to inherit the foot structure that leads to overpronation. In a normal foot the bones are arranged so that two arches are formed, the longitudinal and the transverse. Ligaments hold all the bones in their correct positions, and tendons attach muscles to bones. If the bones are held together too loosely, they will tend to move inwards as this is the easiest direction for them to go. Over time the soft tissue structures will adjust to the misalignment and the foot will become permanently over-flexible, with a flat arch.

Symptoms

If ignored, overpronation can lead to complications such as hammer toes, corns and calluses, shin splints, hallux rigidus and many more foot and lower leg problems. Hammer toes appear when the toes are placed under too much pressure and the ligaments and muscles in the toes begin to reduce in size, leading to the curvature of the toes and making them look like little hammers. Overpronators can develop hammertoes if they don?t wear an appropriate pair of shoes. Corns and calluses also appear as a result of overpronation. They form in response to excess pressure, and overpronators may find that they have excessive hard skin on the balls of the feet and inside edge of the big toe. It is the body?s way of protecting against excessive forces and friction. They can be painful.

Diagnosis

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, medical history, and activities and examine your feet. Your provider may watch you walk or run. Check the motion of your feet when they strike the ground. Look at your athletic shoes to see if they show an abnormal pattern of wear.Pronation

Non Surgical Treatment

Orthotics are medical devices used to provide support to correct a physical abnormality. They can provide arch support when needed to remedy over-pronation, and in this particular cases the orthoses used are usually convenient shoe inserts. These can be taken in and out of shoes, and will be carefully tailored by your podiatrist to the specifics of your foot. It can take some weeks before the effects of the inserts can become truly noticeable, and in many cases your podiatrist will want to review your orthotics within a few weeks to make fine adjustments based on how well they have worked to reduce your pain.

Prevention

Massage and stretch the calves to increase dorsiflexion at the foot/ankle. Dorsiflexion is the bending at the ankle. By improving the dorsiflexion, one will have more flexibility at the ankle, which will allow the foot to over-pronate less. Massage the IT Band with a foam roller or tennis ball to quiet down the tightness throughout this part of the leg. The IT Band attaches from the glute maximus and runs down the side of the leg into the knee area. When the IT Band is tight it will accelerate the force of the leg moving inward, which will cause the foot to move inward as well. It is often that tightness through the IT Band that promotes over-pronation. Decreasing over-pronation, which is very prominent in runners, will help add endurance, speed and efficiency to your run and ultimately place less stress on your body.