Protecting Your Feet

4 Things You Need To Know About Hammer Toes

Wearing shoes that don't fit properly isn't just uncomfortable; over time, it can also damage your feet. If you wear shoes that crush your toes, like shoes that are too small or shoes with high heels, your toe joints can become permanently bent. Here's what you need to know about hammer toes.

How do you know you have hammer toes?

Hammer toes cause very visible symptoms, even to the untrained eye. If you have this condition, your toe joints will be permanently bent upward. The joints may be completely fused in this unnatural position, or you may be able to straighten them if you try. This condition can make standing or walking painful.

Are hammer toes common?

The risk of developing hammer toes increases as you get older, and studies have shown that hammer toes are very common in people who are 50 or older. About 35% of people in this age group have hammer toes. Age isn't the only factor that makes you more likely to have hammer toes. Studies have shown that race also plays a role: African Americans get hammer toes almost 3 times more often than Caucasians do.

Can hammer toes be fixed with new shoes?

Hammer toes are caused by shoes that don't fit properly, and in mild cases, they can be fixed by buying well-fitted shoes. Buying shoes that fit well is harder than just heading out to the mall and trying some on, since as many as 95% of people aren't wearing the right shoe size. Before you buy new shoes, you should make an appointment with a podiatrist to find out what size and type of shoe you need. 

What if new shoes aren't enough?

Well-fitted shoes aren't always enough to fix hammer toes. In severe cases, surgery is required. This procedure is usually done in a podiatrist's office as an outpatient procedure. If you still have some movement in your joints, surgery will involve re-positioning the tendons inside the toe to hold the toe straight. If your joints are fused in a bent position, a portion of the bone will need to be removed, and pins will be used to keep the toe straight while the remaining bone heals.

Surgery for hammer toes is usually effective, but there's a chance that your hammer toes will come back if you start wearing poorly-fitting shoes again.

While hammer toes are a common problem among seniors, but you can avoid this problem by wearing shoes that fit well. Make an appointment with a podiatrist at a practice like Mid Nebraska Foot Clinic to learn about what you can do to keep your feet healthier.