Here’s a general rule that holds true for a lot of foot and ankle issues (not to mention medical conditions in general): the earlier you detect and diagnose a problem, the more options you have at your disposal for treating it.
Take hammertoes. Like many other progressive conditions (bunions, for example, or peripheral artery disease), once hammertoes begin to form they tend to get worse over time. Slowly, they develop from relatively mild, flexible irritants into joints that are rigidly, severely bent. These have the potential to cause a lot of pain, distress, and difficulty wearing shoes or walking comfortably.
If you wait too long, your list of good options will probably have narrowed down to just one: surgery. However, prompt intervention can help you slow or even halt the progression of the deformity, enabling you to avoid surgery as long as possible.
The first and easiest step is to ditch your bad shoes. Avoid regularly wearing styles with narrow toe boxes that squeeze the toes together, high heels (especially heels over 2” in height) that push all your weight on the balls of your feet, unsupportive flats, and other shoes that might look good but don’t do your feet any favors. Instead, opt for well-fitting, comfortable, supportive styles with low heels and lots of room in the toe box.
It’s also important to get a thorough evaluation to see what additional conservative resources can be employed to give you the best possible results. Depending on the particulars of your case, these might include custom orthotics or other shoe inserts that provide extra cushioning and support, taping or splints that keep a flexible hammertoe in line, stretches and exercises, padding to prevent corn formation, or other procedures. Such measures are designed to keep pain in check as well as reduce the rate of progression as much as possible.
If we can spare you the need for surgery, we will. Although even severe hammertoes can often be fixed with expert surgical skills, our goal is to keep as many options on the table as possible and let you make an informed decision. If you notice a hammertoe beginning to form, don’t drag your feet—get down to Massapequa Podiatry Associates today. You can schedule an appointment by calling (516) 541-9000 or using our contact form.