If you don’t have any foot or ankle difficulties, you probably won’t give much thought to the intricate structuring of your lower limbs. Each of your feet contains 26 bones (which is over one-quarter of all the bones in your body), 33 joints, and over 100 different muscles, tendons, and ligaments. You may not have been aware of the fact there are so many components, but you probably know what normal feet and toes look like.
Beyond awareness of foot structure, you are going to want—or, more accurately, need—treatment to address symptoms and problems that arise on account of toe deformities. When you’re ready for expert podiatric care to address a bunion or hammertoe, come see us at Anderson Foot & Ankle Clinic.
Dr. Mikol Anderson can assess the severity of your toe condition, and then will create a customized treatment plan to relieve symptoms and prevent the deformity from worsening.
Bunions and Hammertoes – Similarities and Differences
Both bunions and hammertoes are considered toe “deformities” because their form is atypical from what you should expect to see from a normal toe. There are certain similarities between the two conditions—especially the obvious fact that they both result in having a toe that doesn’t look quite right—but they are distinctly different as well.
A bunion (hallux valgus) starts to develop when the big toe angles in an unnatural fashion inward at the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP joint) – the joint where your toe connects to the foot. This particular joint has that lengthy name because it’s the junction at which the metatarsal bone in your foot—the long bone connecting your hind- and mid-foot—meets the proximal phalange bone in your toe—the toe bone closest to your foot. In addition to your big toe angling inward, your will also notice a bony bump on the inner edge of the foot (where the joint is being pushed outward).
A hammertoe is a condition wherein one of your toes—typically, but not always, the second or third toe—has become curled in an unnatural manner, instead of staying relatively flat (as it should). The abnormal curl is the result of a stark downward bend at the toe’s second joint. It is important to specify this because there are two other, related conditions.
Mallet and claw toes are similar to hammertoes, but there are some key differences. In the case of a mallet toe, there is a single abnormal bend—much like with a hammertoe—but instead of developing in the second toe joint, this one takes place in the third (the joint closest to the tip of your toe). When there are two abnormal bends—one found at each the second and third toe joints—the condition is a claw toe (named as such on account of its resemblance to a hooked claw). Usually, claw toe happens in all four of your small toes at the same time.
In addition to unnatural appearances, all of these respective toe deformity conditions may cause pain or discomfort, along with making it difficult to wear your normal footwear. The risk of calluses is heightened from bunions and hammertoes (and the related deformities). Other symptoms of bunions include swelling and reddening.
Toe Deformity Treatment
No matter if we are talking about bunions or hammertoes, or any other toe deformity, it’s best to identify the problem at the earliest possible opportunity. These conditions are progressive, which means they worsen over time when they are left unaddressed. Nonsurgical care at early stages might include stretching and strengthening exercises, pain medication, buddy-taping, night splints, and modified footwear choice – which usually entails bypassing narrow, tight shoes for ones that have wide, deep toe boxes and low heels.
Depending on the nature of your condition, Dr. Mikol Anderson might prescribe custom orthotics. These are crafted to work with your unique foot structure in order to rebalance pressure across your feet in a more natural manner. Orthotics are also used to address any existing gait problem you may have that has contributed to—or even potentially caused—the bunion or hammertoe.
When your treatment plan is centered on conservative options, the goals are to relieve any pain and discomfort you are experiencing and stop the deformity from becoming worse. Given that progressive conditions like these are irreversible, it is impossible to actually correct them without using surgery.
If we are able to effectively treat the problem with nonsurgical methods, we will. We generally only recommend surgical procedures to restore toes back to their natural position it they are causing severe difficulty and pain. The good news about bunion and hammertoe surgeries is that advances in surgical techniques have made these procedures less invasive and quicker to recover from than they were in the past.
Professional Care for Bunions and Hammertoes
If you have developed either of these toe deformities—or are having any foot or ankle problems—contact Dr. Mikol Anderson at Anderson Foot & Ankle Clinic. We will determine the root cause as to why your toe has moved out of position, and which type of treatment will be best for you. For additional information on this topic, or to request an appointment with our Salt Lake City podiatrist office, connect with us by calling (801) 269-9939.