Although bunion vs hammer toe involves different bones and joints of the foot, sometimes it is easy to confuse the two. They both exhibit similar types of symptoms and feet deformity but they are very different from each other. In this article, we are gonna talk about all the facts that distinguish bunions from hammer toes.
What Is A Bunion?
It is a bump that forms at the outside of the base of the big toe. It is a deformity of the 1st metatarsophalangeal joint where there is partial dislocation of the metatarsal bone causing outwards deviation and thus forcing the big toe towards the other toes.
This usually does not cause any major problems but if not maintained properly, the bunion might get bigger over time and cause pain and inflammation of the foot. Bunions also make it hard to wear regular shoes because of the bump and the tenderness.
There is a Latin name for the deformity and it is called hallux valgus. Hallux means big toe and valgus means turned away from the midline of the body.
- A protruding bump on the base of your big toe.
- The great toe is directed toward the other toes. Sometimes the constant friction between the great toe and second toe forms corns or calluses.
- Redness, swelling, and tenderness of the big toe joint.
- Limited range of motion of the big toe.
- Difficulty wearing regular shoes
- Occasional numbness of the big toe.
Hammer toe is one of the most common bone and joint deformities of the foot. It mostly involves the middle joint of the second, third, and fourth toe. It causes the joint to flex and the toes to bend down which gives it a hammer-like appearance.
It is developed due to an imbalance between the weak intrinsic muscles and strong extrinsic muscles surrounding the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) of the lesser joints causing flexion of the interphalangeal joint.
- Bend in the middle joints of lesser toes with toenails directed downwards.
- Pain, redness, and swelling of the affected toe.
- The affected toe becomes stiff and difficult to move.
- Growth of corns and calluses from rubbing against shoes or the ground.
1. Type of deformity
Bunions: Bunions are misalignment deformities where the joint at the base of the big toe is partially dislocated from its normal shape, forming a bony lump
Hammer Toe: Hammer toe is a contracture deformity where your toe is bent at a certain angle, making it look like a hammer.
2. Number of joints involved
Bunions: Bunions only involve one joint, the 1st metatarsophalangeal joint of the big toe.
Hammer Toe: Although hammer toes usually involve one joint, there is a possibility of multiple joint involvement, namely the middle and distal interphalangeal joints.
Bunions: It is a bone and soft tissue deformity formed on the base of the big toe and it is caused mainly by faulty footwear that is narrow towards the toes, foot injuries, genetics, etc.
Hammer Toes: The most common cause of hammertoe is the imbalance between the extrinsic and intrinsic muscles surrounding the metatarsophalangeal joint of the lesser toes. Other causes are toe injuries, arthritis, etc. Bunions can also cause hammer toes.
Bunions: Bunions mainly occur at the base of the great toe and sometimes on the little toe.
Hammer toes: They mainly occur at the middle interphalangeal joint of the second, third, and fourth toes.
5. Mostly Affected
Bunions: People with professions that require prolonged walking or standing periods such as teachers, construction workers, ballet dancers, etc.
Hammer toe: Women who wear ill-fitting shoes or high heels and growing children who wear their old smaller size shoes are likely to develop hammer toes.
Once bunions develop, it is hard to get rid of them completely. But there are some home remedies you can use to ease the pain caused by the deformity.
1. Home Remedies
Avoid wearing faulty footwear such as high heels or tight, pointy shoes. Instead, wear flat, wide shoes with low heels and soft soles.
Try exercising and losing weight if you are an overweight person.
Cold compression: Use an ice pack or frozen food and hold it over the bunion for 5 to 10 minutes to reduce pain and swelling.
Bunion pads (moleskin or gel-fitted pads) are available in pharmacies that are soft and protect your feet from friction. You can put them in your shoes to avoid them rubbing on your bunions.
Take over-the-counter painkillers such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen.
2. Hospital Treatment
If the pain from your bunion does not decrease after weeks of home treatment but is getting worse with time or if you have associated chronic diseases such as diabetes, you may need to see a general practitioner or a podiatrist. A podiatrist is a foot specialist who deals with anything foot-related.
Your healthcare practitioner may advise different methods of treatment to relieve the pain such as corrective footwear (orthotics), bunion splints, toe supports, toe spacers, etc.
Severe cases of bunions may require surgery as it is the only treatment method to completely correct the deformity.
Also Read: Can Bunions Cause Pain On Top Of Foot?
Early stages of hammer toes are easy to treat as they are sti flexible. Over time they become more rigid and difficult to move, causing pain and discomfort.
1. Non-invasive Methods
Exercise: Exercise stretches and strengthens the muscles and tendons of the feet reducing the imbalance that causes hammer toe. Some of these exercises are picking small objects with toes, manual stretching, etc.
Footwear: People with hammer toes should avoid tight or narrow shoes and high heels.
Splints: There are custom-made splints available that help strengthen the muscles of the feet.
If non-invasive methods fail or the hammer toe becomes stiff, surgery might be necessary.
Here we can see all the ways hammer toes differ from bunions. The easiest way to recognize and get treatment is to remember the bones and joints each of them are involved in. If you develop bunions or hammer toes that need medical attention, schedule a podiatrist or orthopedist appointment immediately.