Hammer toe susceptibility
Hammer toe can happen to any individual. However, some people might exhibit factors that increase the risk. For example, hammer toe is more likely to be seen in older individuals. Women often develop the deformity more frequently than men, often due to shoe wear selection. People with a second toe longer than the big toe also have an increased risk. People with arthritis and diabetes may also be more prone to developing foot deformities.
When to get surgery
Surgery is usually reserved for more severe hammer toe cases. The main reasons a person may require surgery are severe pain, inability to engage in activities due to discomfort, and unresponsiveness to non-surgical interventions. For these individuals, surgery works to remove any bony prominence on the toes and aligns the joint by using a steel pin. For less severe cases, noninvasive solutions might be more effective.
The case for OTC treatments
Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments can often work well to realign the toe gently. Once known as hammer toe splints, the device is now referred to as an orthotic. Regardless of terminology, a hammer toe orthotic can provide passive pressure to straighten the toe by applying gentle force on the affected muscles. Some of the most popular options include toe wraps, toe separator socks, gel toe separators, ball of foot cushions, and hammer toe crest pads. The orthotic device should be paired with improved footwear with plenty of space in the toe box for maximum relief.
Individual results may vary
Not all patients will respond well to OTC treatments. Success depends on when interventions were taken, the consistency of using such treatments, and whether a patient switches to more supportive footwear. If OTC methods aren’t effective, surgery may be recommended.
Prioritize foot health
While hammer toe may seem like a common condition, the deformity can reduce the quality of life. Not being able to engage in activities or experiencing pain from everyday movements like walking can be difficult. People with hammer toe should consult a podiatrist to coordinate a treatment plan. Early intervention is critical to maintaining mobility and minimizing pain.