No two feet are alike! Every person has their own unique foot shape, and those shapes can change over the course of your life in ways large and small, based on how they were formed and how they’re used.
While a wide variety of shapes can be considered “normal,” a foot deformity can emerge over time, dramatically altering the profile of your feet and leading to pain, difficulty walking or wearing shoes, and other problems. These are issues you’ll want treated to avoid long-term, chronic discomfort.
Types of Foot Deformities
The two most common cases we see in our office are bunions and hammertoes:
- A bunion is a bony enlargement that occurs on the inside of the foot at base of the big toe. The size of the bump gradually increases over time, while the big toe drifts further and further out of alignment, pressing up against the second toe. These misshapen joints can often make it difficult to find shoes that fit or to walk without pain.
- A hammertoe (or related conditions such as a claw toe or mallet toe) is a toe stuck in a “bent” position at one or more of the joints. In the early stages the joints may still be flexible, but eventually they become rigid. Hammertoes can also make it difficult to find comfortable shoes or walk without pain, and friction between the tops or tips of the toes. Your shoes can lead to irritation, calluses, or blisters.
Other foot deformities we may see at our office include adult-acquired flatfoot (arches collapse over time due to repetitive stress), tailor’s bunions (also known as bunionettes, which occur at the base of the pinky toe), hallux limitus, floating toe and other conditions.
How and Why Deformities Occur
Most deformities that occur later in life (including those mentioned above) feature genetic, mechanical, and lifestyle components.
Certain foot structures inherited from parents and ancestors are simply more likely to lead to problems. Your feet have to cushion, balance, distribute impact forces, and propel you with every step you take, and some feet are simply better at it than others due to the way they’re configured. Over time, excess pressure at the base of the great toe or hallux can gradually push it out of alignment, beginning a bunion. If your mother or grandmother had one, there’s a good chance you will, too. So, at your next family reunion, look around and see if you’re in trouble.
At the same time, certain lifestyle choices—particularly wearing high-heeled or narrow pointed shoes frequently—can accelerate the destabilization process. Such footwear increases the magnitude of forces on the front of the foot and even alters the way you walk, greatly increasing the likelihood of a problem. Remember that these problems typically wait until the 3rd or 4th decade of life to show up.
Fixing a Deformity
It’s important to realize that most deformities will not get better on their own and will not get “fixed” without surgical intervention. In many cases, surgery is going to be the best choice for both relieving long-term discomfort and minimizing any embarrassment you may feel about the shape of your feet.
Surgical options vary depending on the severity of the problem. That’s another reason it’s important to seek treatment early—it usually means less extensive procedures and a quicker recovery time. Minor operations may simply involve releasing or removing soft tissue structures, while in other cases the bones may need to be removed, or cut, realigned, and reset. Our approach is to provide the best procedure for your situation that gets you back on your feet as quickly as possible.
Treatment for Painful Symptoms
We understand that it’s not always the right time for surgery, and in minor cases, temporary or conservative measures may be sufficient to allow you to go about your day without pain. Although such measures (including orthotics, physical therapy, or other options) will not reverse the deformity, and may not be able to stop it from progressing. They are designed to give you the relief you need until or unless the condition worsens. We always want to be sure we’re doing what’s best for you in your current situation.
The earlier you seek help, the better able we’ll be to help provide a positive outcome with minimal hassle. Don’t wait until the pain becomes unbearable! Instead, give our office a call at (317) 545-0505 for a prompt, professional evaluation in a relaxed environment. You can even request an appointment online by filling out our contact form.