4 Bothersome Hammertoe Symptoms

A hammertoe (also called a mallet toe) is a condition that results in an unnatural bend in one or both joints of an affected toe. It is often related to an imbalance in the ligaments, tendons, or muscles that bend your toe and keep it straight. The condition causes the toe to become rigid and stiff in a curled position. 

Hammertoe is more than just a cosmetic issue. It can lead to muscle imbalances and unnatural stress on other areas of your toes and feet. The effect can impair normal movement and interfere with your ability to walk, causing a negative impact on your quality of life.

At Chicagoland Foot and Ankle, our team of providers offers expert diagnosis and treatment of hammertoe whether you’re in the early or late stages of this condition. With offices in the Beverly/Mt. Greenwood and Portage Park areas of Chicago and in Orland Park and New Lenox, Illinois, we can conveniently provide the treatment you need to improve common symptoms of hammertoe.

Learn more about four bothersome hammertoe symptoms that can change the way your toes look and feel.  

#1 Curled toes

Hammertoe is a physical deformity of your second, third, or fourth toe. The condition causes a contracture, or bending, of the damaged toe, making it turn under and curl down at the tip so that it resembles a hammer or mallet. Over time, you lose your ability to straighten the affected toe.

Hammertoe is a progressive condition that typically begins as a mild deformity, but becomes more severe without treatment. Correcting this deformity can provide a more natural appearance to your foot and relieve the embarrassment of baring your feet or wearing open-toe footwear.

#2 Changes in the way your shoes fit

It’s normal for your feet to grow as your ligaments and tendons lose elasticity and your arches become lax with age. However, if you’re experiencing an unusual tightness in the front of your shoes, it might indicate the start of hammertoe. 

Hammertoe can cause pain in the toe and the tendons of the foot, especially when the damaged toe rubs against a neighboring toe or the front of a closed toe shoe. Shoes with a narrow toe box become difficult to wear once a hammertoe begins to develop. 

#3 Soreness and foot pain

Pain is a common symptom of hammertoe. When your toes are in normal alignment, they work together to provide proper balance for walking, running, or standing. A hammertoe can result in improper distribution of your body weight, causing unnatural pressure or wear-and-tear on other parts of your foot and body. 

The chronic tightness in your muscles can cause sore feet. Inadequate foot support can stress other parts of your body, such as your knees, ankles, or back. These areas may have to make unnatural adjustments to make up for the absence of normal foot support.

The discomfort caused by a hammertoe can contribute to imbalance and potential falls, especially as you age and your natural balance weakens. As your hammertoe progresses, the pain can force you to adjust or limit your activities and ultimately affect your daily life. 

#4 Corns and calluses

Because a hammertoe forces your foot to bend at an abnormal angle, the weight and stress are unnaturally distributed. Corns and calluses may develop between the bent toe and a neighboring toe or on the ball of your foot as your skin reacts to excessive pressure or friction from the unusual distribution of weight. 

Although these skin conditions can be painful and unsightly, they can also increase your risk of infection if you have poor circulation, diabetes, or a weakened immune system. When a callus forms on a foot affected by nerve loss, it can remain unnoticed and untreated, allowing an infection to develop and threaten the health of your foot and your entire body if it spreads.

Treating common symptoms

In the early stages of the condition, hammertoe can be treated with conservative treatments, which may include:

In its advanced stages, a hammertoe becomes rigid and requires surgery to relieve pain. Hammertoe surgery restores normal alignment to the affected toe with techniques like bone fusions, joint resections, or tendon transfers.

Hammertoe correction can reduce pain and help prevent the progression of the condition. Restoring normal alignment to an affected toe helps prevent the development of wounds that can spread infection.

Hammertoe correction can also improve balance and protect other parts of your body from damage by allowing your foot to assume the proper amount and distribution of body weight. 

Find out more about symptoms of hammertoe and how to achieve relief at any stage of this condition. Call the office convenient to you, or schedule an appointment online today.

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