Bunions and Hammertoes: The Hidden Connection Between These Two Foot Deformities

20 de November de 2023

Bunions and claw toes are two distinct foot conditions, but often occur simultaneously. In fact, they often occur together so frequently that some physicians consider them to be a single condition.

What causes bunions and hammertoes to occur together? There is a connection between how and why each deformity develops. If your foot has a bunion, a hammertoe is likely to follow. Here’s why.

What is a bunion?

A bunion, known as hallux valgus, is a lump that develops at the base of the big toe on the side of the foot. Caused by misalignment of the metatarsophalangeal joint, a bunion can make it difficult to find proper footwear, cause pain when rubbing against the shoe, or cause discomfort and pain when walking. When the big toe joint shifts, it causes the tip of the toe to deviate toward the smaller toes.

The causes of bunions can vary, from footwear to genetics and even pregnancy. Bunions generally worsen over time, especially if you wear ill-fitting shoes. If you don’t take steps to limit the progression of a bunion, it can negatively affect your mobility and cause pain.

What is a hammertoe?

Hammertoes do not affect your big toe; instead, they occur in the second, third, fourth or fifth toes. They are characterized by an abnormal curvature of the finger, usually in the middle joint, which causes the fingertip to deform downward (flexion). This deformity can cause your feet to rub against your shoes, causing corns and injuries. Hammertoe also causes the toe to become stiff, limiting its ability to move and making everyday activities more difficult or painful.

Hammertoes can have several causes. Like bunions, improper footwear can contribute to this pathology. Some health problems, such as diabetes or a foot injury, may also play a role. But often, the exact cause cannot be determined.

What is a mallet finger?

A mallet finger is similar to a hammer finger. However, the curve occurs at the joint just below the affected toenail, instead of pressing the toe pad down, the mallet toe causes a curled appearance. This deformity predominantly affects the second toe, but can also occur in the third and fourth toes. Improper footwear is often the culprit, but injury and illness can also cause this condition.

What are claw toes?

claw toes older person

Another deformity similar to hammertoes is claw toes. The toe joint curves the entire toe so that it curls back toward your foot, almost like a claw.

Claw toes often occur in all of the smaller toes and involve all of the affected toe joints. Like the previous pathologies, claw toes can be caused by the choice of footwear, although they can also be hereditary.

Why can you have bunions and hammertoes at the same time?

You are more likely to develop hammertoe when the second toe extends beyond the first toe (big toe). When you wear shoes, the pressure from the end of the shoe box rests on the longest toe. Prolonged use and wear and tear can cause it to curve, resulting in a hammertoe.

This is because the toe is repeatedly forced into this curved position, the tendons and muscles can become stiffer and shorter over time. Even when you remove a tight shoe, the toe remains bent.

The relationship between bunions and hammertoes is clear: bunions, by deflecting the big toe and compressing the adjacent toes, force them into abnormal positions. This not only leads to the formation of hammertoes, but can also cause the big toe to become shorter than the second toe.

Therefore, even if you are not born with a hammertoe-prone foot structure, the development of a bunion can change the anatomy of the foot, thus increasing the risk of suffering from this condition.

Do hammertoes cause bunions?

Having a hammertoe does not necessarily imply a risk of bunion, since it affects a different joint and does not put pressure on the big toe. However, factors such as joint problems, diabetes, genetics and improper footwear can increase the risk of both deformities. In addition, bunions and hammertoes often have a common cause: improper footwear. Therefore, it is possible to develop both conditions because of the pressure that narrow shoes exert on the toes.

Treatment options for bunions and hammertoes

Since bunions and hammertoes have common causes, their preventive measures are similar. Non-surgical treatments for both focus on mitigating pain and stopping the progression or aggravation of these conditions.
Non-surgical treatments for bunions and hammertoes include:

  • Proper Footwear: It is essential to choose shoes with sufficient room in the toe box and forefoot to avoid pressure and unnatural toe displacement. It is recommended to avoid narrow shoes and high heels, as they can cause calluses, blisters and aggravate bunions by pushing the big toe towards the other toes.
  • Insole Support: Commercial insoles, bunion splints and pads help support and relieve foot pain. At Clínica San Román, we offer customized orthotics and orthopedic insoles to cushion and position the toes in a more natural way.
  • Finger Stretches: Performing stretches and gentle finger exercises at home can relax tight ligaments and relieve muscle contracture. Regular activity can balance the musculature and prevent curved and uncomfortable toes.
  • Surgery for Advanced Cases: For advanced bunions and hammertoes, surgery may be necessary. Our surgeons at Clínica San Román are experts in various surgical procedures for bunions and toe deformities. In severe cases where a hammertoe affects daily life, we also perform specific surgeries for this condition.

Why is Clínica San Román the best place for the treatment of bunions and toe deformities in Europe?

Clínica San Román is led by a team of highly qualified doctors and podiatrists. This center was the first clinic to initiate minimally invasive foot surgery in Europe, established in 1979. Our goal is to offer safe and effective long-term treatments. If you suffer from hammertoes, bunions or a bunionette, we always start with the least invasive treatment option before resorting to state-of-the-art bunionectomy techniques.

To schedule a consultation, call (+34) 965921156 or make an appointment now.


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