Do Hammertoe Straighteners Actually Work

Hammer ToeOverview

A Hammer toe occurs from a muscle and ligament imbalance around the toe joint which causes the middle joint of the toe to bend and become stuck in this position. The most common complaint with hammertoes is rubbing and irritation on the top of the bent toe. Toes that may curl rather than buckle, most commonly the baby toe, are also considered hammertoes. It can happen to any toe. Women are more likely to get pain associated with hammertoes than men because of shoe gear. Hammertoes can be a serious problem in people with diabetes or poor circulation. People with these conditions should see a doctor at the first sign of foot trouble.

Causes

A common cause of hammertoe and mallet toe is wearing improper footwear – shoes that are too tight in the toe box, or high-heel shoes. Wearing shoes of either type can push your toes forward, crowding one or more of them into a space that’s not large enough to allow your toes to lie flat. Hammertoe and mallet toe deformities can also be inherited and may occur despite wearing appropriate footwear. The result is a toe that bends upward in the middle and then curls down in a hammer-like or claw-like shape. Your shoes can rub against the raised portion of the toe or toes, causing painful corns or calluses. The bottom of the affected toe can press down, creating the mallet-like appearance of mallet toe. At first, a hammertoe or mallet toe may maintain its flexibility and lie flat when you’re not wearing crowded footwear. But eventually, the tendons of the toe may contract and tighten, causing your toe to become permanently stiff.

HammertoeSymptoms

If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to hammer toe. Talk to your doctor about symptoms such as a toe that curls down, corns on the top of a toe, calluses on the sole of the foot or bottom of the toe, pain in the middle joint of a toe, discomfort on the top of a toe, difficulty finding any shoes that fit comfortably, cramping in a toe, and sometimes also the foot and leg, difficult hammertoe or painful motion of a toe joint, pain in the ball of the foot or at the base of a toe.

Diagnosis

The treatment options vary with the type and severity of each hammer toe, although identifying the deformity early in its development is important to avoid surgery. Your podiatric physician will examine and X-ray the affected area and recommend a treatment plan specific to your condition.

Non Surgical Treatment

Wear sensible shoes. If you don?t want to have surgery to fix your hammertoe, use non-medicated padding along with proper shoes made with a wider and deeper toe box to accommodate your foot?s shape. Ensuring your shoes have a good arch support can slow the progression of the condition as well. Use a pumice stone. The corn or callus that forms on top of the hammertoe can cause discomfort when you wear shoes. Treat the corn by using a file or pumice stone to reduce its size after a warm bath, then apply emollients to keep the area softened and pliable. Use silicone or moleskin padding on top of the area when wearing shoes. Do foot exercises. Theoretically, exercises like extending, then curling the toes, splaying the toes, and moving the toes individually may help prevent the digital contracture that causes hammertoe. Try these suggestions and see what works best for you.

Surgical Treatment

If these non-invasive treatments don?t work, or if the joint is rigid, a doctor?s only recourse may be to perform surgery. During the surgery, the doctor makes an incision and cuts the tendon to release it or moves the tendon away from or around the joint. Sometimes part of the joint needs to be removed or the joint needs to be fused. Each surgery is different in terms of what is needed to treat the hammertoe. Normally after any foot surgery, patients use a surgical shoe for four to six weeks, but often the recovery from hammertoe surgery is more rapid than that. An unfortunate reality is that hammertoe can actually return even after surgery if a patient continues to make choices that will aggravate the situation. Though doctors usually explain pretty clearly what needs to be done to avoid this.

HammertoePrevention

Prevention of a hammertoe can be difficult as symptoms do not arise until the problem exists. Wearing shoes that have extra room in the toes may eliminate the problem or slow down the deformity from getting worse. Sometimes surgery is recommended for the condition. If the area is irritated with redness, swelling, and pain some ice and anti-inflammatory medications may be helpful. The best prevention may be to get advice from your podiatrist.

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Over-Pronation

Overview

Over-pronation describes a characteristic gait wherein a lack of sufficient support from the arch of the foot causes it to roll inwards as weight is placed on it. The long arch of the foot is actually a very important structure in terms of our gait and how we walk, it is responsible for ensuring that as our weight rolls from the heel to the balls of our feet it does so in a straight line that doesn?t place undue stress on the ankle or knees. Unfortunately when a person?s arch is not pronounced enough, or even simply not there (a condition called flat footedness), there isn?t enough arch support to maintain a healthy, forward motion of the foot.Overpronation

Causes

There are many possible causes for overpronation, but researchers have not yet determined one underlying cause. Hintermann states, Compensatory overpronation may occur for anatomical reasons, such as a tibia vara of 10 degrees or more, forefoot varus, leg length discrepancy, ligamentous laxity, or because of muscular weakness or tightness in the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. Pronation can be influenced by sources outside of the body as well. Shoes have been shown to significantly influence pronation. Hintermann states that the same person can have different amounts of pronation just by using different running shoes. It is easily possible that the maximal ankle joint eversion movement is 31 degrees for one and 12 degrees for another running shoe.

Symptoms

In addition to problems overpronation causes in the feet, it can also create issues in the calf muscles and lower legs. The calf muscles, which attach to the heel via the Achilles tendon, can become twisted and irritated as a result of the heel rolling excessively toward the midline of the body. Over time this can lead to inflexibility of the calf muscles and the Achilles tendon, which will likely lead to another common problem in the foot and ankle complex, the inability to dorsiflex. As such, overpronation is intrinsically linked to the inability to dorsiflex.

Diagnosis

To easily get an idea of whether a person overpronates, look at the position and condition of certain structures in the feet and ankles when he/she stands still. When performing weight-bearing activities like walking or running, muscles and other soft tissue structures work to control gravity’s effect and ground reaction forces to the joints. If the muscles of the leg, pelvis, and feet are working correctly, then the joints in these areas such as the knees, hips, and ankles will experience less stress. However, if the muscles and other soft tissues are not working efficiently, then structural changes and clues in the feet are visible and indicate habitual overpronation.Over 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.

Surgical Treatment

The MBA implant is small titanium device that is inserted surgically into a small opening between the bones in the hind-mid foot: the talus (ankle bone) and the calcaneus (heel bone). The implant was developed to help restore the arch by acting as a mechanical block that prevents the foot from rolling-in (pronation). In the medical literature, the success rate for relief of pain is about 65-70%. Unfortunately, about 40% of people require surgical removal of the implant due to pain.