Foot deformities are conditions that gradually alter the shape and alignment of your feet and toes. This can cause pain and make it difficult to wear shoes or perform daily activities. Examples of common foot deformities include:
- Bunions. A bunion is a deformity at the joint between the foot and the big toe. This joint becomes unstable, and a large, bony bump forms along the side of the foot. The toe itself moves in the opposite direction, pushing toward the second toe. (More rarely, the same condition can occur to the pinky toe on the opposite side of the foot. This is called a bunionette.)
- Hammertoes. This deformity affects the “knuckles” of one or more toes, causing them to remain permanently bent. The joint may be somewhat flexible at first, but later becomes stiff and rigid. Related conditions include mallet toes and claw toe.
- Flat feet. Flat arches aren’t able to properly cushion your steps, causing pain. Flat feet may be inherited genetically, or develop over time as supporting tendons weaken from wear and tear.
Although these are very different conditions affecting different parts of the foot, they share some important things in common:
- They make it difficult or painful for you to live your best life and enjoy daily activities.
- They tend to get worse over time.
- They can only be repaired surgically, although conservative care may help if you seek help early enough.
Diagnosis and Examination
When you come into our office, we’ll perform a full physical examination and take some radiographic images so that we can precisely measure the location and severity of your deformity.
We will also ask you some simple questions about your condition, such as:
- How serious is your pain?
- How long have you experienced pain?
- Are there any activities in particular that make the pain worse, or that you would like to perform but can’t anymore due to your discomfort?
- What have you tried anything to reduce your pain (switching shoes, taking pain medications, etc.)?
Can My Condition Be Treated Conservatively?
If your pain isn’t severe or hasn’t been around for too long, non-surgical treatment options may be able to reduce or eliminate your pain. These treatments may include:
- Switching to a wider, taller, more comfortable pair of shoes
- Using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication (Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, etc.)
- Steroid injection therapy
- Moleskin padding to reduce friction against a misaligned joint
- Taping or splinting the toe into a better position
While painful corns and calluses often form on the sides of feet and tops of toes with bunions and hammertoes, simply shaving these is not an effective treatment. Since the underlying cause of the problem still remains, the pain will keep coming back.
Do I Need Surgery?
Surgery is the only way to permanently fix a bunion, hammertoe, or other foot deformity. It is the only way to restore a normal and natural alignment to your feet and toes.
You may be a good candidate for surgery if:
- You have experienced pain for more than one year.
- The pain interferes with daily activities or prevents you from specific activities that do not want to give up, such as playing tennis, hiking, etc.
- You have tried some conservative treatments, but they were unsuccessful.
What Can I Expect After Surgery?
Contrary to horror stories you may have heard, the vast majority of bunion surgeries and hammertoe surgeries are highly successful. Surgical techniques are also improving all the time, so surgery is safer and more effective than ever before.
The most important thing is that you follow your post-surgical instructions diligently and exactly, especially in the first few weeks after surgery. Almost all post-surgical problems result from patients who do not take these instructions seriously. They are very simple to follow, so it comes down to personal discipline.
Most people will need to wear a special walking boot for approximately 6 weeks after surgery. Partial weight bearing may be possible using a “step to gait” pattern, which keeps weight on the heel of the injured foot. We will carefully instruct you on how to do this.
Other, more specific post-surgical instructions will depend on your specific condition and the chosen surgical procedure. We will make sure you and any caregiving family members are fully informed about the expectations.
Those who follow their post-surgical instructions carefully have a great prognosis, with most people making a complete, pain-free return to full activity within 6 months or less.
Comprehensive Care for Bunions, Hammertoes, and Other Foot Deformities
If pain from a bunion, hammertoe, or other foot or toe deformity is affecting your quality of life, please call Dr. Bruce Scudday a call. We have two convenient El Paso office locations to serve you:
- Curie Drive: (915) 533-5151
- George Dieter Drive: (915) 856-3331