Hammertoes: The Truth is Out There

Ever say something you immediately regretted? There’s quite a bit of that phenomenon going around in the news this month. Call it public misspeaking, spicing up our lives in so many ways.

One example that raised our eyebrows: former first daughter Jenna Bush Hager made a foot-related slip of the tongue on the April 10 “Today” show. Hager was debating with Kathy Lee Gifford about the issue of wearing shoes in the house – is it good hygiene to take them off, is it okay to go barefoot, should you ask your guests to take off their dirty shoes, and on and on – when suddenly Hager divulged that her “Ganny,” former First Lady Barbara Bush, only has eight toes.

The moment of dead silence that followed was understandable, and Hager immediately apologized to her Ganny for revealing such a personal truth.

Well, what happened to Barbara Bush’s toes? Hager later said that her grandmother had suffered from hammertoes. Dr. Craig B. Frey and Dr. Megan L. Oltmann of Foot & Ankle Associates of Cleveland want you to know that hammertoe is a common condition that rarely leads to toe amputation. Toe amputation is sometimes necessary under different circumstances, most often as a result of complications from diabetes.

What’s a hammertoe? Hammertoe is a deformity of a toe joint that causes the toe to become permanently bent upwards, with the toe pointing downward instead of lying flat. Hammertoes develop over time, usually due to neurological or structural changes in the toe. The deformity starts out small and can gradually get worse – even much worse, requiring surgical correction if the toe becomes rigid and unmovable.

But many cases fall far short of needing surgical intervention. They can be managed conservatively with pain medication, orthotic shoe inserts, pads that provide cushioning, and/or wearing different shoes.

As with many issues with the foot, early intervention can be the key to successful treatment of hammertoes. If you suspect a hammertoe or have any recurring foot, toe, or ankle pain, make an appointment to see us at our office in the historic district of Solon, Ohio. We offer early, late, and Saturday hours by appointment, for your convenience. Call us at (440) 903-1041.