Toe pain and awkwardly shaped toes are no fun. Take bunions for example, when the bones of your big toe joint move out of position. Or hammertoes, where the joints bend up and the toes curl under. Understanding the reasons for these forefoot deformities can help you make wiser choices, like seeking treatment at Southern Tier Podiatry before the problem begins to impair your lifestyle.
This problem is not congenital (present at birth), but it is often genetic (due to inherited foot structure). Certain characteristics like a long second toe, flat feet, unusually loose joints, and a tendency for your foot to roll toward the inside edge when walking (overpronate) can all contribute to the development of that bunion bump on your foot. We have long believed that wearing the wrong type of shoes can speed up the process too—especially if there is a family history of the condition.
Whatever the underlying reason, your faulty foot mechanics put pressure on the big toe with each step and push it toward the other toes. That action causes the foot bone (metatarsal) to move in the opposite direction and bulge out on the inside edge of your foot. The bump rubs against your shoe and becomes red and swollen. Eventually, the joint stays in this pushed out position even when at rest, and your bunion has formed.
With this toe deformity, a muscle imbalance is usually to blame. Muscles underneath the foot become tight and curl the toe under, while those on top are stretched and weakened so they can’t pull it straight again. The middle joint stays permanently bent (or with mallet toe, the end joint is bent down). Shoes that are too narrow or pointed can aggravate the condition.
As long as the toe remains flexible so that you can straighten it by hand, it may not hurt, although you run the risk of a painful corn forming on the bent up joint. However, as the deformity progresses and becomes rigid, it can cause a lot of pain and make it hard to find shoes that fit.
Whether you have a bunion, bunionette (same issue, only by the little toe), or hammertoe, it pays to identify the problem and start treatment as soon as possible. This can take several forms in the early stages, including shoe choice (wider toes, low heels), stretching and strengthening exercises, night splints, buddy taping, gel pads and cushions, and topical pain relievers like Arnica or Biofreeze if needed.
Custom orthotics can also be helpful, since they address any gait problems and rebalance the pressure on your feet. They can also be helpful in stopping the progression of these conditions. The goal is to stop the deformity from getting worse and relieve your discomfort.
Surgical correction is an option for some bunions and hammertoes. This form of treatment is reserved for when the joints have become rigid and toe pain severe enough to keep you from enjoying the normal activities of life. Advances in procedures and techniques make this type of surgery much less invasive—and recovery times shorter—than in the past.
If you live in the Greater Binghamton Area, contact Dr. Marilyn S. Boyuka at Southern Tier Podiatry for an evaluation of your toe problems. We can determine why they are moving out of position and what sort of treatment will help you most. Call our podiatry office today at (607) 217-5668, or fill out our contact form to request your visit.