Claw Toe Deformities
A claw toe deformity is a condition where the toes curl onto themselves. It usually happens to the four smaller toes but not the big toe. The toe is initially bendable but eventually will become rigid, unbend-able and will then need surgery. This may take years & often occurs with a bulge on the inside of the big toe joint known as a bunion. It is very possible to prevent the toes from becoming rigid and avoiding surgery altogether by trying these conservative methods first.
Claw Toe Deformities Explained
Aka Hammer Toe Deformity, Claw Toe Deformity & Mallet Toe Deformity
Each of the small toes are composed of three bones, and 3 joints, the joint closest to the foot bends up and the other two joints bend down. This bending is due to tightening of the muscles at the top and bottom of the toe that are flexed abnormally. The joints are initially flexible and can be corrected without surgery, so it is essential that you try these methods because over a period of months or years the hammer toe will become rigid and the only way to correct the deformity at that point is with surgery.
If a hammertoe begins to develop corns and calluses on top of the toe and at the tip of the toe this leaves you are risk for bleeding underneath the callus, ulceration as well as extreme pain and your feet tiring out more quickly. The toe will likely also become swollen and bruised.
Causes of Claw Toe Deformities
- Shoes that are too short & Shoes that are too thin.
- In women due to high heels without orthotic control.
- Use a Brannock device to measure your shoes properly. WATCH VIDEO
- Disuse of the toes for a long time
- Poor blood flow(Peripheral vascular disease)
- Injury such as a broken toe
- Congenital problems or nerve injury(Stroke or back injury) – must see a doctor
- Associated with arthritis, gout or diabets – best to see a doctor
Treatment of Claw Toe Deformities
- In the early stages of hammer toes, if the toe can still be straightened, then these home remedies can be tried.
- Use a Brannock Device to properly measure your shoes.WATCH VIDEO
- It is essential to have a wide and deep toe box when trying on a shoe. Find the right set of shoes for Hammer toes. A comfortable, well-fitted shoe offers you the best chance of relieving pain in the foot or toe that is caused by the hammertoe & may prevent it from getting worse. A spacious wide and deep toe box is essential. WATCH VIDEO
- Try your shoes on in the evening to make sure that your feet are at maximum swelling, in the morning your feet have been elevated so your feet are the smallest they are during the day. It is not crazy to see a person go up a size or more from just the morning to the evening due to just swelling.
- Toe Rehabilitation: Towel and Marble exercises.
- Moleskin, pads, arch supports or other orthotic shoe inserts: with the right design it is possible to cushion the toes and prevent any pain at all or atleast reduce it dramatically. It is possible to prevent the deformity from worsening, but you really should go see a podiatrist for these. WATCH VIDEO
- Use gel caps or sleeves to cover the callus and prevent rubbing of the uneven part of the callus. If this stops all of your symptoms, it may be possible to delay or prevent surgery. WATCH VIDEO
- Have your corns or calluses removed. It is possible to get over the counter or prescription that smooth out and soften the painful calluses and corns. There are also some home methods for removing calluses that you can try ahead of time. WATCH VIDEO.
- Taping or splinting of a hammer toe – Gently wrap the tape under and around the bit toe and around the second hammered little toe, this can be employed if the hammer to can still be bent. It does not correct it permanently but does hold it in a straight position. WATCH VIDEO
- Take an over the counter anti-inflammatory & pain relieving medication. This is not only to relieve pain but to also decrease inflammation and swelling in the toe therapeutically. WATCH VIDEO
- Exercises to stretch the toes out and to also strengthen the muscles under the foot (to counteract the tightness of the top tendons). Gently elongate the toes and hold this stretch for 15 seconds 3 times in the morning and again for 15 seconds 3 times in the evening. Try this for 2 weeks to see if this is having any effect on you. It could have a great effect on delaying surgery, many people have found this very effective. WATCH VIDEO
- Padding or corn plasters can be used to ease the discomfort of any associated corns and calluses. This is a very cheap and effective alternative. WATCH VIDEO
- If this fails or if treatment is not sought until the toes are permanantly misaligned, then surgery may be required. Surgery may involve either cutting the tendon or fusing the joint.
What can a Podiatrist do for you:
- Further diagnosis if home treatment is not resolving the claw to deformity or the mallet toe deformity.
- Moleskin, pads, arch supports or other orthotic shoe inserts: with the right design it is possible prevent pain and symptoms in even the most rigid conditions.
- See a podiatrist to remove your corns or calluses for you. It is possible to get prescription topical medications and pads that greatly decrease friction and pain.
- Toe Rehabilitation: Towel and Marble exercises.
- Congenital conditions should be treated in early childhood with manipulations and splinting. A podiatrist can get you set up with this.
- Surgery if the hammer toe is rigid
- Arthroplasty(Phalangeal head resection).
- Joint Fusion(Arthrodesis).
- Release of the tendons or ligaments.