Foot Deformities

Foot deformities such as bunions, hammertoes, and others develop slowly—so slowly that you might not notice or think much of them at first.

Over time, these conditions get worse and worse, and eventually start to affect your day-to-day life. You experience pain when you perform certain activities. You can’t wear your favorite shoes anymore. You find you can no longer walk long distances or stay as active as you’d like to be.

Don’t wait until your deformity reaches this point before seeking help! Although we can provide treatment and relief for even the most severe foot deformities, you can save yourself years (or even decades) of discomfort by coming in at the first sign of trouble.

Bunions and Bunionettes

Common Foot Deformities Treated at Comprehensive Foot and Ankle Centers

At Comprehensive Foot and Ankle Centers, we provide effective treatment options for a wide variety of foot and toe deformities. Here are a few of the most common. 

Bunions & Bunionettes

bunion is an enlarged, bony bump that develops along the side of your foot, at the base of the big toe. It results from progressively worsening instability and misalignment within that joint, and also causes the big toe to drift toward (or even cross over) the second toe.

In other words, the long metatarsal bone in the middle of your foot shifts toward the center of your body, the toe bones go the other way, and the joint in the middle becomes enlarged and inflamed. The result is progressively worsening pain, restricted motion, and secondary complications like corns and calluses.

A bunionette, also known as a tailor’s bunion, is similar, except it develops at the base of the fifth toe instead of the first toe.

Hammertoes & Mallet Toes

hammertoe is the result of an abnormal bend in the middle knuckle of any of the four smaller toes on each foot. They are usually caused by a strength imbalance in the muscles or connective tissues responsible for curling and lengthening the toe.

At first, hammertoe joints remain relatively flexible—so you can still push the toe back into place with your fingers. As the hammertoe gets worse, however, the joint begins losing mobility, and eventually becomes rigid. As with bunions, moving the toe may become painful, and secondary complications can form where toes rub against the inside of your shoe.

A mallet toe is very similar. The only difference is that it affects the joint closest to the tip of the toe, rather than the middle knuckle.

Flat Feet

Some people are born with flat feet. Their arches simply never develop at all. 

Others develop flat feet later in life. Years of wear and tear on the soft tissues that support and hold up the arch, particularly the posterior tibial tendon, can gradually cause the arch to lose its shape. Specific injuries, inflammatory arthritis, and other conditions may also play a role.

Flat arches are associated with a higher risk of many symptoms, including heel pain, pain along the inside of the foot and ankle or back of the calf, and even bony bumps on the top of the foot. You may be more likely to develop other foot deformities as well.

Hallux Rigidus (Stiff Big Toe)

Hallux rigidus is the development of extreme stiffness in the joint at the base of the big toe—the same joint where bunions form.

In the early stages, you may notice mild pain that becomes aggravated by walking, squatting, or even cold weather. As the condition advances, bone spurs may form that make wearing shoes difficult and pain to increase, even during times of rest. Since a stiff big toe affects your push-off and alters the way you walk, pain may spread to the knees, hips, or back as well.

Second Toe Capsulitis (“Crossover Toe”)

The joint at the base of each toe is surrounded by a “capsule” of ligaments that hold the bones together and allow them to move comfortably within a normal range of motion.

If a “capsule” becomes irritated and inflamed over a long enough period of time, the ligaments may start to weaken enough that the toe itself becomes dislocated. In the advanced stages of capsulitis, the toe can even start to cross over the top of a neighboring toe.

Although capsulitis can technically occur in any of the seconds through fourth toes on each foot, the second toe is by far the most common. 

Charcot’s Foot (Diabetic Foot Collapse)

Charcot’s foot is a severe complication associated with diabetes, especially in cases where neuropathy has become severe.

People with diabetes may already suffer from foot bones that are more brittle and susceptible to cracks and breaks than individuals without diabetes. Furthermore, if the nerves in your feet have been significantly damaged, you may not even feel any pain after breaking a foot bone. You may unknowingly continue to walk on it, doing even more damage.

Severe Charcot foot deformity often involves many bones cracking and crumbling, and the foot itself takes on a severely disfigured rocker-bottom appearance. Quite often, it ultimately leads to amputation. 

If you have the risk factors for Charcot’s foot, make sure you examine your feet very carefully every day. If you start to notice redness or swelling, skin that’s warm to the touch, or any apparent changes in foot shape, call us immediately.

feet on wooden planks

What Causes Bunions, Hammertoes, and Other Foot Deformities?

It isn’t always clear what causes any particular foot deformity. However, several underlying factors have been shown to contribute to these deformities—either causing them or at least making them worse.

  • Genetics. Many foot deformities tend to run in families. You may have inherited a foot structure that is prone to developing foot deformities, such as a naturally flat foot or an excessively long second toe. Alternatively, some foot deformities may be caused by neurological disorders.
  • Shoes. Shoes that crowd your toes or push all your weight to the front of the foot, such as high heels, are often linked with higher rates of bunions, hammertoes, capsulitis, and many other foot deformities.
  • Trauma. Specific injuries (acute or overuse) to joints, ligaments, and other foot structures can cause them to weaken, destabilize, or dislocate, which may lead to changes in the overall shape and structure of your feet.

Can Foot Deformities Be Treated Without Surgery?

The unfortunate truth is that, for most foot deformities, reconstructive surgery is the only way to restore the natural alignment of your feet and toes once a deformity has begun. And without surgery, the problem usually gets worse.

If your deformity is still in the very early stages, we can pursue conservative treatments (taping, splinting, stretching, shoe changes, etc.) to manage the symptoms. In many cases, you may be able to resume your regular activities without pain. Sometimes, we can even slow the progression of the deformity by reducing the destabilizing forces that are acting upon it.

However, by the time most people start to see us about their bunion, hammertoe, or other foot deformities, they’re usually already in a lot of pain and can’t wear their normal shoes anymore. At this stage, reconstructive surgery is almost always the best choice. That way, we fix the problem and allow you to wear your regular shoes and do your regular activities, rather than try to accommodate the problem indefinitely.

running on the stairs

Surgical Correction for Bunions, Hammertoes, and Other Deformities

A deformed, malformed, or mechanically compromised foot must be repaired through reconstructive surgery. The goal is to re-align and reposition the bones, tendons, and ligaments so that they look and function as normal (and painlessly) as possible.

Each surgical plan is unique and depends not only on the type and severity of the condition itself but also on factors such as your lifestyle goals and surgical history. We may use techniques such as:

  • Transferring or repairing connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, etc.)
  • Cutting and realigning bones (osteotomy)
  • Fusing bones (arthrodesis)
  • Removing damaged joint surfaces (resection arthroplasty)
  • Replacing a damaged joint with an artificial implant

Our board-certified foot and ankle surgeons specialize in a wide variety of surgical techniques for deformity correction and foot reconstruction, including many advanced procedures (such as the Lapiplasty bunion correction technique.)

For more in-depth details about these procedures, please review our webpage on reconstructive surgery.

While we understand the prospect of surgery isn’t always fun, the truth is that reconstructive surgery is highly effective in the vast majority of cases. Your recovery may take a few weeks to a few months, but in the end, you’ll have a foot that looks, works and functions the way it’s supposed to.

To schedule an appointment with one of our doctors at Comprehensive Foot Centers in Metro Kansas City, please give us a call toll-free at (816) 455-1155 today.