Clawed Toes and Hammertoes
Clawed digits and hammertoes are common conditions that affect people aged from eight to eighty. The lesser digits (all the toes apart from the big toe) start to curl up and look like claws. This is caused by the body compensating for poor gait, imperfect balance or tight muscles in the lower leg.
The way that someone walks is affected by the alignment of the foot and ankle. Misalignment causes the soft tissues around the foot and ankle to compensate by pulling on the toes, which then rise and ‘grab’ the ground in effect. This helps to stabilise the foot when someone is standing or walking. The problem is that over time these tissues start to adapt and if left long enough will stay in this position. In most cases, the clawed digit or hammertoe is still flexible and can move freely through its movement even though it sits up. This becomes an issue when the top of the toe rubs on shoes and causes blistering or ulceration from the resulting friction.
If left long enough, the clawed toes or hammertoes become inflexible. This stage is much harder to treat, and causes further issues that in many cases will lead to surgery. The surgery for this condition has a low success rate.
Initially this condition doesn’t cause pain; however, without conservative management it can become debilitating and painful. Most people aren’t aware that foot mobilisation therapy can actually straighten the lesser toes gently and painlessly. The sooner the area is treated, the more favourable the outcome.