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Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic

Understanding Deformities of the Foot

The word “deformities” has a negative ring. Many people imagine unusual and embarrassing bumps or abnormal lumps protruding from somewhere they don’t belong. However, these changes in the body, and particularly the feet and ankles, aren’t necessarily dramatic or even permanent. More often than not, they actually include common problems that become serious if allowed to worsen.

Xray of foot with bunionsThe Truth about These Conditions

Foot deformities cover a wide variety of problems that affect the lower limb. They can be present at birth, develop after an injury, or be the result of wear and tear over time. Typically, though, these conditions cause some sort of change in the feet or ankles that then affect their shape or function. This includes changes in bones, joints, and some soft tissues. Often times, an issue with tendons or dysfunctional soft tissues can lead to other conditions.

Conservative treatment is typically quite effective, especially if applied early. However, these issues can cause permanent damage if they aren’t carefully managed. Here are just a few potential problems for your feet and ankles:

Bunions – This is a displacement of the big toe, allowing the first joint to bugle outward and become enlarged.

Claw toes – Weakening in the muscles and connective tissues controlling your toes, usually as the result of a nerve injury, causes your digits to curl in and under. This can become a permanent problem if not addressed early enough.

Clubfoot – This deformity is present at birth and causes one or both of a baby’s feet to turn in and upward. This must be corrected early to allow a child to walk properly later in life.

Flat feet – Arches that are lower than normal are not able to efficiently absorb shock, so you may be more prone to issues like overpronation and heel pain.

Haglund’s deformity – This bump develops on the back of the heel under pressure and repeated aggravation. It can make wearing many kinds of shoes very uncomfortable.

Hammertoes – When the soft tissues managing your toes become imbalanced, they distort the digits. This can cause the middle joint of one or more of the small toes to become fixed in a bent position.

Mallet toes – Like hammertoes, these involve an imbalance in the soft tissues in a toe. The joint closest to the end of the digit bends downward and presses into the soles of your shoes.

Peroneal tendon dislocation – You have tendons that run behind the bony bump on the outside of your ankle to attach to the outside of your foot. Injuries can cause these to dislocate forward painfully, weakening your limb.

Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction – You also have tendons that run behind the bony bump on the inside of your ankle and attach to the inside of your arch. These help support and control the midfoot. If they weaken or become injured, they can allow the arch to “fall” inward.

These are not the only possible conditions or deformity-causing conditions. Other issues include dysplasia, enchondroma, Gordon syndrome, hallux limitus, hallux varus, tarsal coalition, and bone spurs. Problems like metatarsalgia, sesamoiditis, and osteomyelitis can cause problems if allowed to progress without treatment. Less common deformities that are present at birth include amniotic band syndrome and Jackson Weiss syndrome.

Any issue that changes the shape or function of the feet needs to be treated early to prevent painful symptoms and sometimes permanent results. Like most problems in the feet and ankles, these tend to start small and worsen with time. Don’t wait to have your feet evaluated if you notice any changes in their shape or are struggling with persistent pain. Contact expert Dr. Darren Silvester here at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic in Pleasanton, TX, for an appointment. You can call (830) 569-3338 or use our website request form to reach us.