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A #hammertoe is a foot deformity when the toe buckles up at the joints of the toe, giving it a hammered appearance. The hammer toe often becomes painful. This pain could be because of the pressure of the toe against the shoe. It also may be because of the pressure at the joint between the foot and the toe. There also may be painful, corns, soft corns, or calluses that form because of the pressure. There are non-surgical ways to treat a hammer toe. The success of a non-surgical treatment relies on how progressed the deformity has become. It also depends on how rigid the toe is. This means if you're able to manually straighten the toe, these non-surgical treatments can be helpful. There'll be less helpful if you're unable to manually straighten the toe because it's become more rigid.
One of the more popular ways to splint a hammertoe is with the use of a #BudinSplint. This splint works for hammertoes in the very early stages when the hammer toe is very flexible. The principle is simple. An elastic loop slips over the toe with a soft foam material sitting under the foot. The tension on the loop pulls the toe down. These splints come in single, double, or even triple loops to work on the adjacent toes. These splints have their place. However, if the toe is not flexible, they can end up becoming very uncomfortable.
Another excellent treatment for an early stage hammer toe is a custom orthotic. An orthotic is a custom made insole that's designed to neutralize your faulty mechanics and to allow the foot to work in as stable and efficient a manner as possible. With properly placed support, the toe should lay out flat when the orthotic is being used. The orthotic will also help to remove the forces that are causing the toes to deform. While the hammer toes will not resolve with the use of an orthotic, the orthotic device should stop the hammer toes from progressing.
There are a number of pads that are effective in either supporting or cushioning the painful areas associated with a hammertoe deformity. The first one I'd like to discuss is called a crest pad. A crest pad is a teardrop shaped pad that sits under your toes in the sulcus. It pushes the front of your toes up, essentially straightening the toe. This makes it perfect for people who are getting pain or lesions at the end of their toes.
Toe caps are another pad that works great when there's a lesion or pain at the end of the toe. Think of it as a sock for the end of your toe. At the end of the pad, there's a soft silicone or foam cushioning. This will provide a cushioned buffer at the end of your toe and help to provide relief from the pain of the callus at the end of your toe. You can try a crest pad and a toe cap and stick with what works best for you. Using both is usually overkill.
If you're getting pain on top of the joint, especially if a corn is formed there, there's a different pad that will take care of that. A Silopos pad is an elastic covering with silicone padding. The silicone lies over the joint with the corn and cushions it against the top of this shoe.
Sometimes a hammer toe can cause pressure between two toes. This is particularly true with a curved, adductovarus fifth toe. Because of the way the bone twists, the bone in the fifth toe pushes against the bone in the fourth toe and a lesion known as a soft corn develops. Separating the toes with a foam or silicone toe separator will stop the bones from impacting one another. This should help to stop or slow the soft corn from developing. Some people prefer to use lambs wool.
Another pad that works well when there's a corn on top of the foot is a corn pad. These are generally pads that have an adhesive to stick to the top of the toe, and there's a hole where the corn is. It helps to protect the area of the corn. My preference is to use pads like these made out of felt. The felt maintains its thickness and offers better protection. The alternative is to use a similar pad made from foam. The problem is foam flattens out like a sponge and doesn't offer the same protection.
One thing that I recommend against for everyone is the use of corn or callus removers. They're usually sold as medicated pads. The medication that's referred to is an acid. Since you can't regulate how much acid gets to the area, it can make the toe more inflamed and even burn a hole through the healthy skin. These pads do work about one third of the time, but to me, it's not worth the risk of aggravating the situation.