Do You Have One of These Risk Factors for Developing Hammertoe?

Do You Have One of These Risk Factors for Developing Hammertoe?

We don’t think much about our toes, but they play a significant role in keeping us mobile. Plus, when they run into problems, it can make each step we take uncomfortable.

That’s why William T. DeCarbo, DPM, FACFAS, recommends seeking treatment for toe and foot problems before they have the chance to worsen. Take hammertoe as an example. Left unchecked, this problem can require surgery. Fortunately, Dr. DeCarbo can treat your toe here at Greater Pittsburgh Foot & Ankle Center in Wexford, Pennsylvania, ideally helping you avoid that outcome. 

At this point, you might be wondering if you’re likely to develop hammertoe. That depends on some specific risk factors. Before we launch into them, though, let’s first get a basic understanding of the condition itself. 

Hammertoe 101

You get hammertoe when your toe bends at the middle joint when your foot is relaxed. A healthy toe lays flat, keeping you balanced and propelling you forward as you walk. But problems with the tendons and muscles in your toe can cause it to bend upward at the middle joint, resembling a hammer (hence the name). 

At first, hammertoe might not seem like a big deal. As it worsens, though, it can cause the toe to rub uncomfortably against the top of your shoe. 

If you leave it untreated, the muscles and tendons can get fixed in their irregular position. At that point, you’ll need surgery to correct the toe. 

Risk factors for hammertoe

Are you likely to deal with this uncomfortable issue? That depends. You’re more likely to get a hammertoe if you are:

  • A woman
  • Someone with long toes or flat feet
  • Middle-aged or older
  • Diagnosed with a condition that affects your feet (e.g., diabetes, arthritis)

All of this said, not all hammertoe risk factors are out of your hands. One of the biggest ways to increase or decrease your chances of this toe problem comes down to your shoes. Wearing overly tight shoes that squeeze your toes notably increases your risk for hammertoe. In fact, part of the reason women are more likely to get hammertoe can get chalked up to high heels. 

While some factors are out of your control, you can shrink your risk for this podiatric problem by choosing shoes with plenty of room in the toe box. Avoid narrow and pointy-toed shoes. Instead, choose footwear with enough room for you to wiggle your toes a little bit even when you’re fully laced in.

Also, remember to visit us if you think you might be developing hammertoe. The sooner you catch it, the easier it is to treat with conservative options like custom orthotics and stretching and strengthening exercises.

Whenever you need toe, foot, or ankle care, call our office or book your appointment online