When most people think about foot deformities they most often think about bunions; however, hammertoes are just as common. This unassuming deformity comes about gradually, so you may not even notice it until it’s too late. “What is a hammertoe?” You might be wondering. A hammertoe affects the middle joint of a toe (often the smaller toes), causing the toe to bend downward. In severe cases, a hammertoe will look almost claw-like.
There are two kinds of hammertoes: flexible and rigid. As you might imagine, a flexible hammertoe is one in which you can still straighten the toe out. If you aren’t able to straighten the affected toe then this is a rigid hammertoe. A flexible hammertoe isn’t as serious as a rigid one; however, it’s important that you take care of your hammertoe to make sure that it doesn’t get worse.
While there is no way to cure a hammertoe there are simple measures you can take to prevent it from progressing. First and foremost, you need to take a look at the shoes you are wearing and make sure that they aren’t too tight. When you slip your feet into your shoes, does it cause your toes to bunch up against one another? If so then this could make your hammertoe worse.
Instead, opt for shoes with an ample toe box, which will allow your toes to wiggle and move around freely. If you have a structural imbalance within the foot this can leave you prone to foot problems such as hammertoes and bunions. To correct this imbalance, talk to your foot doctor about getting custom orthotics (shoe inserts), which can be placed into your shoes to help provide cushioning, support, and shock absorption for your feet.
If pain or stiffness does rear its ugly head you can choose to take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen, which can tackle both pain and inflammation in one fell swoop, or you can place a towel-wrapped ice pack (never put ice directly on the skin, as it can cause severe burns) over the area for several minutes.
Just as you can buy pads to cover a bunion or callus, you can also buy a non-medicated protective pad to cover over a hammertoe. Since the deformed toe joint juts out this can leave the toe prone to calluses, which can cause pain when wearing shoes. To prevent a callus from forming, you can apply a protective pad over the deformed toe joint before putting on shoes.
Of course, if you are dealing with significant or frequent pain, or if the hammertoe is rigid, then you will want to turn to a podiatric specialist. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended to correct the disfigured joint.
While it might not be something you think about often (or at all), the health of your child’s feet is important. Your child is growing by leaps and bounds and certain habits and other factors can affect how your child’s feet develop or if they experience injuries or other problems down the road. Unfortunately, a lot of children end up wearing shoes that are far too small for their feet, which can lead to pain, structural imbalances and certain foot deformities.
We know that going shoe shopping is certainly not a walk in the park for most parents; however, it’s an important component to making sure your child maintains healthy feet. There are many things to think about when it comes to picking the right shoes, and your podiatrist can also provide suggestions and tips to make the world of shoe shopping easier for you and your little one.
Some factors that you should consider when shopping for the right shoes include:
- Your child’s age
- The shoe’s material
- Your child’s shoe size
- The shoe’s structure
A good rule of thumb is to shop for shoes every 2 months when your child is between the ages of 1 and 2 years old. Once they reach three and four, you’ll want to purchase new shoes approximately every four months. At the point that your child is five or six years old, every six months is a good time to swap out old shoes for new ones.
As you might already know, the bones of a baby or infant’s feet are soft and haven’t fully developed. To protect your child’s feet it’s important that they wear socks and soft shoes. Make sure that as your child’s feet grow that the toes have room to wiggle and move around within the shoes. Bunched-up toes are a major no-no!
Since your little one is growing by leaps and bounds it is important that you are constantly checking their shoe size for changes. Remember that feet swell throughout the day, so shoe shopping should be done at the end of the day when feet are at their largest. If you aren’t sure what size shoe your little one wears, you can ask one of the store’s footwear specialists for help.
Of course, you can’t forget the importance of choosing the right socks, as well. Socks can prevent your little one from blisters, calluses and other foot problems. They can also wick away sweat and prevent fungal infections. When it comes to choosing the right socks for your little one consider the type of fabric, your child’s activity level, the size of your child’s feet and sensitivities they might have to certain fabrics.
When in doubt, you should talk to a foot doctor who can provide you with advice, answer any questions you might have about your child’s developing feet and also provide comprehensive care, when needed.
What is a Bunion?
What Causes Bunions?
How a Podiatrist Can Help
Prevention is Key
Following an ankle injury or ankle surgery, you’ll inevitably lose some strength and range of motion from being immobilized for an extended period of time. A weak ankle can hinder normal mobility, and even lead to another injury. So what can you do to strengthen your ankle and get back to your old self again?
Strengthening Your Ankle
Your ankle or leg may feel stiff, especially if your treatment required wearing a cast or a walking boot. Stiffness and instability are common symptoms following an ankle injury that will need to be addressed in order to get you back to your normal range of motion and activity level.
Your podiatrist may recommend post-injury physical therapy or home exercises that will help you strengthen weak muscles surrounding the ankle joint and restore mobility to lower your risk of reinjury. These include range of motion exercises for the injured ankle, which help loosen stiff ankles, and stretching exercises for the calf muscles, which help decrease your risk of hurting your ankle again. As with all exercises, progress slowly and discontinue if painful. Pain is most certainly not gain when it comes to physical therapy!
Choosing the Right Shoes
The shoes you wear will also play an important role in protecting your injured ankle and restoring your mobility. Supportive shoes will provide more comfort, better balance and help stabilize the weak ankle to prevent re-injury. Stay off high heels or flats and flip flops without support until your ankle is completely mended.
Proper care and rehabilitation following an ankle injury is critical to ensure your ankle fully heals. Always consult your podiatrist if ankle pain or stiffness persists or worsens and before starting any new exercise program.
Chronic ankle instability is a condition characterized by a recurring "giving way" of the outer side of the ankle. It most often develops following an ankle sprain. When the stretched or torn ligaments do not heal properly or completely, ankle instability is often the result.
If you have chronic ankle instability, you may find it difficult to walk on uneven surfaces. Other symptoms include a repeated turning of the ankle during physical activity, tenderness and persistent discomfort and swelling.
How Can I Treat My Ankle Instability?
Treatment for an unstable ankle will depend on the degree of instability. Bracing, medication and physical therapy are all conservative treatment options that may help strengthen your weakened ankle. Often patients with ankle instability can be treated without surgery by strengthening the muscles that control the ankle joint, avoiding or limiting high impact activities and using a supportive brace to decrease the risk of recurrent ankle sprains.
In severe cases, or when conservative treatments aren’t successful, your podiatrist may recommend surgery, which involves repair or reconstruction of the damaged ligaments.
If your ankle feels unstable or if you have had recurring ankle sprains, visit your podiatrist for an evaluation. Left untreated, chronic ankle instability leads to activity restrictions, tendon complications, arthritis and continued instability. Your podiatrist can provide a recommended treatment plan based on the severity of your instability, so that you can get back to the activities you enjoy!
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