4 Ways to Prevent Toe Deformities

Sohail Siddiqui
Dr. Sohail Siddiqui provides the best possible foot and ankle care with conservative therapy and treatment.

Spend enough time on a podiatry practice’s website and you’ll likely pick up on this important fact:

Feet are complex structures.

We could talk about all the various components (one-quarter or your body’s bones, over a hundred soft tissues, etc.), but let’s focus for a minute on what it means for you.

See, it’s great when everything is positioned properly and functioning the way it should. Your feet allow you to be mobile and have a wide range of options in life. There’s no pain when you walk or participate in physical activities.

Unfortunately, the reality of life is that things aren’t always the way they should be.

(The proverbial silver lining is that you always have the option of coming to see us for professional diagnosis and treatment if problems arise.)

One of the numerous examples of “things aren’t always the way they should be” is in the case of a toe deformity.

foot deformities

Toe Deformity Problems

When you look down, you expect to see toes that are (relatively) flat against the ground and lined up (relatively) straight as they point forward.

For some people—and perhaps this is something to which you can relate—that’s not what they see.

Instead, they might see a big toe angled inwards or the smaller toes curled up.

Now, the abnormal appearance might be considered to be unappealing from an aesthetics point-of-view, but there are also functional considerations as well.

Toes might not seem as though they really do all that much; however, this isn’t entirely accurate.

Those valuable digits play instrumental roles in both giving your body stability and contributing to your ability to walk. Issues like bunions and hammertoes can compromise their performance in those roles—but there’s more to the story than that.

Depending on severity, affected toes might cause pain and lead to other problems, such as corns, calluses, and blisters.

Going back to the “silver lining” we mentioned earlier, our staff can provide exceptional treatment options to help you find relief from symptoms, and even restore toes back to a more normal, natural positioning.

Even better than treatment, though, is to prevent problems from happening in the first place, right?

Well, what does this mean for toe deformities?

Preventing Toe Deformities

In spite of all our technology and everything we know, the simple truth of the matter is this:

In certain cases, it’s basically impossible to completely remove the possibility that a toe deformity will develop.

The reason for that comes down to the role genetics can play in foot structure and biomechanics. If the genetic lottery has determined that you are going to have a bunion or hammertoe, there’s only so much that can be done to try and push back.

That being said, there are couple different reasons why it’s best to still try.

For one thing, it’s possible preventive measures will work. As we said, it’s only in “certain cases” wherein this is an unavoidable situation. If we can stop it from happening to you, we’d love to have the opportunity to do so.

As another, even if it can’t be prevented, these measures can at least minimize the impact of the toe deformity.

And yet one more reason to at least try is this—preventive options are conservative in nature. There’s no surgical intervention entailed. On top of that, they’re also relatively easy.

So what are these preventative measures?

From a general perspective—and we’ll dive deeper into each one momentarily—we’re talking about things like footwear choices, stretching routines, orthotic devices, and avoiding certain kinds of physical activities.

Footwear Choices

shoe shopping

For a long time, bunions were thought to be caused by shoes—specifically high-heeled models featuring pointy toes. The prevailing belief in the field of podiatry now is that stilettos and pumps are more likely to exacerbate an existing bunion than to be responsible for causing one to form in the first place.

With that being the case, it stands to reason that you can keep a bunion from increasing in severity by wearing sensible shoes featuring low heels and comfy, roomy toe boxes.

This doesn’t mean you have to toss your dressy shoes, though!

Yes, wearing high-heeled footwear for extended periods on a regular basis can be concerning. Saving those shoes for special occasion and only wearing them a handful of times during the month for a couple of hours isn’t a big deal.

(Sure, your feet might be sore at the end of the night, but you aren’t likely causing long-lasting damage through limited use.)

Beyond dress shoes, something else to think about are the athletic shoes you wear—and especially if you’re an avid runner.

When you walk or run, your feet use a biomechanical process called pronation. This simply refers to an inwards rolling motion that starts with the heel striking the ground and continues through the toes pushing off as you lift your foot.

In neutral pronation, the foot rotates approximately fifteen percent. When the rotation is excessive, we call it overpronation. And overpronation means more force is being applied to areas of the foot that aren’t necessarily equipped to handle them.

To make a long story short, overpronation can play a role in development and progression of bunions.

Keeping that in mind, you benefit when you choose footwear that works best with your particular pronation pattern. In the case of overpronation, this entails wearing “motion control” footwear.

(But hold that thought because overpronation will make a repeat appearance in just a bit!)

Regular Stretching

A key reason bunions, hammertoes, mallet toes, and claw toes develop is imbalance in muscles and/or connective tissues. This is fairly easy to picture if you think about a tight tendon on the bottom of a toe pulling it downward, and the corresponding tendon on the top of the toe is not strong enough to counter it.

With that being the case, one way you can reduce your risk of toe deformities is with an appropriate stretching routine.

There are two different ways to look at this:

  1. Left unaddressed, the imbalanced connective tissues can become rigid over time. Stretching out your toes can help prevent rigidity from becoming an issue.
  2. The body is highly connected. A tight calf muscle pulls on the Achilles tendon, which is anchored to the heel bone (calcaneus). Since the calcaneus is, in turn, being pulled by the Achilles, the foot isn’t resting in a neutral position. This places additional strain on various tendons throughout the foot, which can weaken ones you need to keep toes in proper positioning.

Accordingly, you can prevent toe deformities—or at least limit their severity—by stretching your toes, feet, and lower legs on a regular basis.

foot stretch

Custom Orthotics

Orthotic therapy can potentially help prevent toe deformities in similar ways as to the previous measures.

In this case, your custom orthotics—ones prescribed from a podiatric practice (and not a place like Costco or the Good Foot Store)—will adjust your foot positioning so it’s more neutral. In doing so, we may be able to correct situations wherein muscular or tendon imbalance either will develop or has started to develop.

As we noted in the previous section, this could be instrumental in lowering your risk for hammertoe, mallet toe, and claw toe conditions. Orthotics can also prevent existing conditions from increasing in severity.

Additionally, orthotic devices are used to offload excessive pressure from targeted areas of the feet—including when this happens as a result of overpronation. In fact, this is an even better approach for correcting pronation issues than choosing motion control footwear.

Avoiding (or Limiting) High-Impact Activities

At Foot & Ankle Associates of Florida, our hope is that we are able to give you every available option for what you want to do in life. Sometimes, there are bound to be limitations.

The reason we’re mentioning this is because yet another way to potentially prevent toe deformities—or at least limit how much they affect you and control their progression—is to refrain from participating in certain activities.

To be a bit more specific, we’re talking about high-impact sports and exercises.

Now, the good news is that you don’t have to avoid all physical activities. You have plenty of low-impact options that allow you to burn calories, improve your cardiovascular system, tone muscles, and achieve the myriad benefits—physical, emotional, and mental—that come from leading an active lifestyle.

Depending on your situation, you might want to consider yoga, cycling, swimming, and walking as some low-impact exercises that you can use in place of high-impact activities.

Have Foot Issues or Concerns? Contact Us Today!

As with virtually any medical issue, your best course of action for toe deformities is to take measures to prevent them from happening. If you’re unable to outright prevent one from developing, your next-best option is to keep them from getting worse.

We offer options to assist you in either of these objectives. If you are interested in receiving professional care from leading podiatric experts—or if you’d simply like additional information on what we can do for you—please feel free to 407-339-7759 or 352-589-9550 (if calling from Lake County).

If you’d prefer, you can also connect with our Central Florida offices online right now!
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