What Are the Most Common Toe Deformities?

Deformities in the feet and toes can develop over time, causing pain and embarrassment and potentially making it difficult to enjoy daily activities. Although women make up the majority of sufferers, men and even children can also be affected.

Two of the most common deformities we treat are bunions and hammertoes. Although these are separate conditions, there are many similarities in terms of how they form and how they are treated.

Bunions are characterized by a large, bony bump that develops along the inside of the foot, at the base of the big toe. As the bump gets bigger and bigger over time, the big toe itself drifts further out of alignment (in the opposite direction). Eventually it may push into—or even cross over—the second toe.

Hammertoes are distinguished by toe joints that are stuck in a bent position in their “resting” state. At first, the toe can still be extended if you push on it. Without treatment, however, the condition will progress, and the joint may become more rigidly locked in place. Hammertoes can affect any of the four smaller toes of each foot, but are most common in the second digit.

What Are the Symptoms?

The early stages of these conditions are usually not painful. The deformity and misalignments in the toes may be noticeable, but not yet severe.

However, both deformities are progressive conditions that will only get worse without intervention. As the misalignment worsens, it can potentially start to cause pain and interfere with daily activities:

  • It may become difficult to wear normal shoes comfortably
  • Swelling and redness might form around the deformed joint
  • Corns, calluses, or even open sores may form around the areas where the bunion or hammertoe is rubbing against the inside of a shoe
  • Joints can become arthritic, restricting motion

What Causes Toe Deformities?

We don’t always know the specific cause for all given cases of bunions or hammertoes. However, both conditions have been linked to the following risk factors:

  • Poor footwear. In particular, people who frequently wear shoes with narrow or pointed toe boxes, as well as those which place excess pressure on the front of the feet, tend to develop toe deformities more often.
  • Specific injuries. Accidentally stubbing or jamming your toe, or suffering any other injury that destabilizes the toe joints, can increase your risk.
  • Family history. Toe deformities tend to run in families. Unfortunately, you may have inherited a foot structure that is naturally prone to instability in the toe joints.

How Are Toe Deformities Treated?

Conservative Treatments

The best course of action is to visit our office as early as possible, before you develop painful symptoms associated with your toe deformity.

Surgery is the only way to realign a joint that has begun to drift out of place, but conservative treatments can often halt the pain and slow the progression if you intervene early enough. We don’t like to jump to surgery and try to avoid it as much as possible.

Non-invasive options include:

  • Switching to wider, more comfortable, and more supportive shoes. (We’ll provide a guide with recommendations on what to wear.)
  • Custom orthotics that support the feet and deflect pressure away from the unstable joints.
  • Taping, padding, or splinting the toe back into alignment if possible. (This won’t work if the joint has become arthritic and rigid.)

Surgical Care

Surgery is the only way to restore a bunion or hammertoe back to an anatomically correct alignment. If your deformity is severe, or if you’ve attempted at least three months of conservative treatments without success, it may be your only option.

The goal of surgery is to allow your feet to look and function normally and without pain, so that you can wear shoes and enjoy active hobbies without restriction.

At Precision Foot and Ankle, we understand the surgery may be frustrating and perhaps even frightening, so we work hard to make the process as easy as possible, with the minimum attainable interference in your daily life.

Surgeries for both bunions and hammertoes are typically performed on an out-patient basis here at our office, in a single appointment. The type of surgery required will depend on the severity of your condition, but we will always try to keep it as minimally invasive as possible. Some procedures even allow limited walking immediately after surgery.

Get Your Toe and Foot Deformities Corrected!

We will always make sure you and any caregivers are fully educated and prepared for all aftercare instructions, with appropriate handouts. We also will provide you with our contact information—please, feel free to call us at any time if you have any questions or concerns.

To repeat: the earlier you seek our help for your toe deformity, the more likely you can manage it with conservative care—and the less your pain and any necessary treatments will interfere with your life.

Give us a call so that we can help you. You can reach us at (727) 399-7167, or by completing our online contact form.