Hammer toe and claw toe deformities are often attributed to wearing shoes that force your toes into unnatural positions. However, deformities can be caused by injuries and ongoing inflammation due to arthritis. There are conservative approaches to reduce the pain and limitations caused by toe deformities.
Buy The Right Footwear
Orthotics are your first line of defense to alleviate pressure points on your feet and make walking more comfortable. You may need cushioned inserts to reduce pressure on the balls of your feet. In claw toe deformity, the toes bend upward where they connect to the feet. This causes you to apply more pressure to the ball of your feet for traction, especially if you have deformities in most of your toes. Both claw toe and hammer toe can cause pressure points on the knuckles and tips of the toes.
The knuckles of your toes may rub against the top of your shoes, causing significant pressure to occur at the tip of your toes since they point downward. Orthotics designed to cushion the tips of your toes can alleviate pressure, reduce skin irritation and slow the formation of calluses. Shoes with a deeper toe box can prevent the knuckles of your toes from hitting and rubbing against the top of your shoes. If you require orthotics, you may need to buy shoes with a deeper toe box to comfortably accommodate the modifications you need.
Although toe exercises will not alleviate the deformities, exercises may help stretch out shortened tendons that have created the deformity and reduce the feeling of cramping as the deformity progresses. A simple exercise is using your toes to transfer marbles from one location to another.
Fill a wide, shallow container with marbles and place the container on the floor. Place an empty container next to the first container, approximately a foot away. You should perform the exercises while seated to maintain your balance. Use your toes to pick up the marbles and drop them into the empty container. You should spend a few minutes each day exercising your toes. Make sure you attempt to use all your toes as much as possible to transfer the marbles.
Try Physical Therapy
A more rigorous form of toe exercises can be performed by a physical therapist. Depending on the type of deformity you have, your physical therapist will manipulate your toes to help stretch the tendons in your feet. The goal is to elongate tendons that are keeping your toe joints bent, while simultaneously strengthening other supporting structures in your foot.
The results of your physical therapy sessions will depend on how long the deformities have been present and the underlying cause of your deformities. In general, if your toes cannot be temporarily straightened with manual manipulation or toe straighteners, the deformity is likely permanent. If the deformities were caused by conditions that affect the nerves in your feet or chronic inflammatory processes, it is unlikely physical therapy alone will have permanent benefits.
Both hammer toe and claw toe deformities can cause significant pain and make walking difficult. When conservative treatments do not alleviate the problem, there are surgical options to help straighten your toes and improve your physical function.
For more information, contact Affiliated Ankle & Foot Care Center or a similar location.