Sunday, December 31, 2017

Essential Reference Guide to Overlapping Toes

Foot pain is no stranger to most anyone who spends time each day on their feet, and it can be caused by an array of factors - hammer toes, bunions, corns, plantar fasciitis, the list goes on. Luckily, for conditions like overlapping toes, there are non-invasive ways to treat and realign the foot structure to prevent pain and discomfort. Don’t miss this essential reference guide to overlapping toes:

What are “Overlapping Toes”?
Exactly what it sounds like, “overlapping toes” is a condition where one or more toes extends and overlaps another toe. Common to the big toe or pinky toe, overlapping toes can result from everything from your genetic heredity to improper footwear. Similarly, underlapping toes, where the second, third, and fourth toe extends under an adjacent toe, can also develop from genes and footwear, or potentially even from muscle weakness in the foot.

Additional risk factors for incurring issues with overlapping toes include the development of hammer toes or bunions. Hammer toes (also known as mallet toes) occur when the top joint of one or more toes abnormally bends down in a permanent position, making the toe hard to move and putting you at risk for developing painful corns and calluses. Bunions form most commonly at the joint where your big toe connects to your foot; they are a bony prominence that forces your big toe to push inward against your second toe, enlarging the joint and leading to painful irritation and potential deformity.

Do Overlapping Toes Cause Serious Problems?
While you may think the visual aspect of overlapping toes is the most unappealing symptom, you would be wrong. Overlapping toes can progress to states that actually impact your gait, mobility, and comfort levels.

When overlapping toes continuously rub against one another or against tight footwear, redness, tenderness, irritation, and foot sores can occur. Even the slightest blister in just the right place on your foot can make walking painful. The pressure and friction of overlapping toes can cause the skin to harden in places and become thick and raised. This can lead to corns which often grow on the outsides and knuckles of your toes and may require medical treatment.  Corns are often tender and painful to touch.

When walking and running become uncomfortable, your body will naturally compensate by altering your gait, or the way you walk, as well. This may seem natural at first but overtime can lead to musculoskeletal issues with your ankles, knees, hips, and even your back.

How Are Overlapping Toes Treated?

If you suffer from overlapping toes, before considering surgical intervention, make sure to discuss at-home alternatives with your podiatrist. Taking steps to address what caused your overlapping toes in the first place, i.e. tight-fitting shoes, as well as using simple aids to separate and realign your toes can go a long way in preventing painful symptoms and a worsening of your condition.

Orthotic aids - a variety of over-the-counter and custom orthoses can help address overlapping toes. These aids include toe separators, toe spacers, toe loops, toe bandages, and hammer toe crest pads. Start a dialogue with your podiatrist about which orthotic aid will best serve your condition and where you can find them (i.e. at a pharmacy, online, special order).

Proper fitting shoes - wearing proper-fitting shoes when running, walking and jumping goes a long way in preventing overlapping toes, but it can also help with comfort levels while you work on a treatment. A roomy toe box that allows toes to spread and even offers room for an insole is a must. High heels and other tight-fitting footwear that tends to narrow and squish the toes into a point should be avoided.

Surgery - in extreme cases, surgery may be conducted to cut and lengthen connective tendons in the toes or to release tight ligaments. This can help toes return to a normal alignment and proper functioning.

Like other painful foot conditions, overlapping toes can be especially precarious when they start to impact mobility and fitness levels. With a keen body awareness and early action from you and your doctor, however, you can avoid these negative impacts and stay as active as ever.

This is a guest blog entry.

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