Foot deformities

Updated on 27 April 2023

Foot deformities

Because they are under constant pressure, the feet are a vulnerable part of the body to deformations. These changes can be visible to the naked eye. But when they are not immediately noticed, the consequences can interfere with the patient’s quality of life. Knee, pelvis or back pain can gradually set in. To avoid these complications, here is how to recognize foot deformities and the solutions to treat them.

What are foot deformities?

Foot deformities occur when one or more bones deviate from their normal positions. Some people may be born with slight deformities or have acquired minor ones but do not feel pain. Others, however, may experience balance problems and pain. Foot deformities often occur in the toes and arch of the foot. There are many reasons, ranging from ill-fitting shoes to a poorly healed injury. Certain inflammatory and neurological diseases can also cause changes in the shape of the toes or foot. 

Acquired flat or hollow feet and toe bunions (hallux valgus) are among the most common conditions in adults. Older adults may be at risk for toe deformities due to osteoarthritis. Inflamed joints can become stiff and unusually shaped. Nails can also become deformed. Ingrown toenails are an example of this, and at an advanced stage, an exam by a chiropodist is a must.

It should be noted that people who suffer from diabetic foot have a greater chance of developing complications following a deformation. This is because the lesions resulting from these alterations can become infected. It is advisable to consult a chiropodist as soon as possible to receive treatment. 

Is this a common problem?

Deformities of the foot are common and affect both the arch of the foot and the toes.

Different causes of foot deformities

You may be asking yourself what causes foot deformities. A common cause of foot deformity is wearing shoes that are too narrow or with soles that do not correctly support the foot’s arch. If shoes do not allow enough room for the toes, they tend to narrow. This is especially true of the last and smallest toe, which can develop the symptom of a tailor’s bunion. High heels exert another form of pressure on the foot, and more specifically, they widen the front of the foot. This widening of the big toe puts it at greater risk of rubbing against the shoe wall; a bunion can develop at its base. Sometimes, a foot bunion can also lead to the deformation of the adjacent toe in the form of a hammertoe

Being overweight and muscle weakness in the foot can also lead to deformities. Acquired flatfoot can deform the foot as the arch foot sags when too much weight is applied. Once established, most foot deformities have a domino effect and lead to the development of other conditions. In flatfoot, the tissue that usually supports the foot arch (the fascia) becomes strained. In the long term, the patient can develop plantar fasciitis, which is the inflammation of this tissue. 

Athletes may also experience foot deformities as a result of their sports. Dancers, for example, are more likely to develop a hollow arch. Sometimes, a poorly healed foot injury can also cause foot deformities. 

Some diseases impact the joints and cause deformities. Osteoarthritis, gout, neurological conditions or diabetes can be the causes of foot deformities.  

Who is most likely to be affected by foot deformities?

The feet of people who practice high-impact sports or suffer from health problems can become deformed over time. As previously mentioned, wearing ill-fitting shoes can also cause foot deformities.

Symptoms of foot deformities

A deformed foot can be more painful to walk on. It may be difficult to wear shoes. Joints that have been altered may be more sensitive to friction in shoes. People with foot deformities may have more corns or calluses. And because of the pressure exerted on the nails of a deformed foot, they are more likely to become ingrown. 

A foot that is out of balance can affect the entire musculoskeletal structure of the body. Some low back pain or pain in the legs and pelvis is related to poor weight distribution on the feet. People who experience these discomforts can also suffer from tendonitis and joint inflammation. The symptoms of foot deformities must therefore be treated quickly to avoid complications. 

The diagnosis of foot deformities by chiropodists

The chiropodist performs a biomechanical exam to diagnose a bone deviation in the foot. The patient’s feet and legs are observed in a static position and also while the patient is walking. The healthcare professional can determine the source of the pain and its repercussions. They can also check the footprint to observe the weight distribution in the different areas of the foot. They may recommend foot X-rays may be required to complete the exam.    

Treatments offered by chiropodists to treat foot deformities

If the patient’s condition allows it, the chiropodist will initially opt for non-invasive means of treatment, such as manual foot therapy. This method enables the chiropodist to remove tension and soften tissues. This can be followed by therapeutic foot taping, designed to keep the overworked muscles in place to relieve them. Custom-made orthotics can be considered, as they relieve pressure points in the foot, gradually correcting the posture. If necessary, the chiropodist can also treat troublesome corns and calluses to improve the foot’s comfort in a shoe. In addition, pain medication may be prescribed. If the patient’s problem prevents them from going about their daily lives, the healthcare professional may offer local cortisone injections. However, this solution and foot surgery are offered when other available treatments are ineffective. 

How long does it take to notice a change?

The readjustment of the posture and balance of the foot requires several months before its effects are noticed. 

Are there any contraindications to the various treatments?

Contraindications exist for more invasive treatments, such as cortisone injections. The patient must inform the chiropodist of their medical history, allergies, and current condition. 

Ways to prevent foot deformities

To prevent foot deformities, it is recommended to choose your shoes properly to maintain good posture. A good shoe should have a sole that correctly supports the foot and heel arch, leaving enough space for the toes. It is also advisable to limit the use of high-heeled shoes. Self-massage can be a good way to relieve tension at the end of the day and soften the plantar fascia. Finally, maintaining a healthy weight and incorporating a little exercise into your daily routine helps to mobilize your feet to maintain the strength of their muscles. 

Chiropodist’s advice for healthy feet

Some foot deformities may be caused by heredity; their impact on health may be minimal. But if pain occurs regularly and intensifies during activities, it is important to understand the origin of the pain. A chiropodist can evaluate the severity of a condition and answer any questions you may have. Scheduling a clinic visit is the best way to prevent complications associated with foot deformities.

Find a clinic
A member
Foot Network