Bunions, Hammertoes, & Other Foot Deformities
Just like any great structure, our bodies are made for good, proper function. Our feet and ankles, which play huge parts in our locomotion, are organic marvels of design.
Although comparatively small in size to the rest of us, our feet and ankles contain a little more than a quarter of all the bones in our body. And connected to those bones are networks of muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other tissues. It’s an intricate machine, but it helps us achieve a great range of motion.
Unfortunately, even great structures can sometimes have flaws. Conditions such as bunions, hammertoes, and other foot deformities can interfere with standard motion and the way we bear weight across our feet. This, in turn, can lead to additional problems.
When a foot deformity is causing pain and discomfort, the primary goals of treatment are to relieve those symptoms and take measures to slow or stop the deformity from becoming worse.
While it may be understandable to think that surgery is always the best route in all situations, that is very frequently not the case. Many foot deformities can be effectively treated through use of non-surgical methods instead.
Types of Foot Deformities and Causes
Most any type of structural abnormality in the foot can be classified as a foot deformity. Common diagnoses include:
- Bunions – A deformity of the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint at the base of the big toe that causes it to become unstable and enlarged. The big toe will often gradually shift toward the neighboring toes.
- Hammertoes – A deformity when a toe stays bent at the middle joint, vaguely resembling a hammer. Deformities at other joints along the toe can cause similar deformities that are commonly referred to as claw toe or mallet toe.
- Flat Feet – A collapse of the arch of the foot that causes all or nearly all of the bottom of the foot to come in contact with the ground while bearing weight.
- High Arches – In ways, the opposite of flat feet, this is when the arch of the foot is too pronounced and less of the foot makes contact with the ground than normal.
- Haglund’s Deformity – A bony enlargement on the back of the heel, often caused by irritation in that area.
Foot deformities can be the result of several factors, while other factors can contribute to an existing condition becoming worse.
In many cases, it is simply genetics that paves the way to the deformity. We are just born with an abnormality or weakness in our structure that makes the condition much more likely.
In other cases, a past injury can weaken the supporting structures around a joint or other area, causing a collapse or shift (much like how smashing a few bricks at the base of the wall can cause the structure to fall).
Choices of footwear can cause irritation that results in a deformity (such as Haglund’s) and tend to get a lot of blame for causing problems such as bunions, too. While it is arguable that poor footwear does not cause bunions and certain other deformities, they can absolutely contribute to making an existing case worse.
Addressing Foot Deformities
As noted earlier, surgery is often not the only option for managing a foot deformity, and will very rarely be a first consideration. If conservative measures can provide significant relief and assistance, they will frequently be utilized instead. It is only if these measures do not provide results (or it is clear from the start they will not) that we will then consider surgical intervention.
Non-surgical treatments will vary from patient to patient, depending on their condition and other factors. They may include, but are not limited to:
- The use of splints, braces, and other items to protect the vulnerable area from irritation or friction.
- The use of custom orthotics to redistribute weight away from a weakened area.
- Stretches and exercises designed to build up strength and endurance in supporting tissues.
- Changes to more accommodating footwear.
- Cortisone injections to reduce inflammation, when needed.
- Removal of corns or calluses that have developed due to friction.
If surgery becomes a consideration, there are many potential procedures that could be involved. We will be sure to fully discuss all the pros and cons of each, as well as what to expect before and after surgery, so you can make a fully informed choice on how to proceed.
At the Foundation of Your Foot Care
No matter how long you have lived with a foot deformity, something can be done to improve your quality of life and help keep the problem from becoming worse.
Schedule an appointment with our Dearborn podiatry office by calling (313) 582-6222 or by filling out our online contact form.
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7243 Chase Rd.
Dearborn, MI 48126
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