Expert Commentary: Dr. Steven Abramow, D.P.M., FACFAS - May 11, 2009

While it is always interesting to hear about developments in surgical techniques, the initial approach should always be an attempt to resolve the problem with as little intervention as possible. Most times problems can be resolved. Hammertoe is a deformity of the toe, in which the end of the toe is bent downward. Hammertoe usually affects the second toe, although it may also affect the other toes as well.

The condition may be present at birth (congenital) or develop from wearing short, narrow shoes. Hammertoe also occurs in children who continue to wear shoes they have outgrown. The flawed position of the toes can cause other problems, such as corns or calluses that can make walking painful. When all the toes are involved, doctors look for other deeper problems dealing with the nerves or spinal cord. But this is rare.

Mild hammertoe in children is fairly easily treated. Doctors manipulate the foot and splint the affected toe. And of course, wearing the right size shoe (if that was the culprit in the first place) is essential. Shoes should be worn with a wide toe box for comfort and to avoid aggravating the condition. Other treatments include protecting the protruding joint with felt pads, corrective footwear, or other foot devices.

In general, surgery is a last resort. Most cases of hammertoe can be resolved through these non-invasive methods. If you are having any foot pain in general, from hammertoes to heal spurs, you should visit a podiatrist as soon as possible. Not taking care of the issue, can lead to other muscular-skeletal problems, such as back, leg and hip conditions.

To avoid getting hammertoe in the first place, do not wear shoes that are too short or narrow. Check children's shoe sizes frequently, especially during periods of fast growth.


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