Finding Relief from Foot Deformities

Jan 14, 2020

Feet are designed for performance. Each part works in tandem with others to keep you moving, and they operate so well that it barely feels like you’re trying!

That’s how things are supposed to go, at least. If something in the structure of your foot is out of alignment, it can interfere with motion and the way that weight is distributed throughout the body. The result can be plenty of pain and discomfort that makes getting around feel a lot more laborious.

Foot deformities often form due to genetics. If problems such as bunions, hammertoes, or flat feet run in your family, odds are higher that you may develop them, too. While these problems sometimes begin to show and progress during childhood, they don’t often become a problem until adulthood.

Many patients do not tend to seek help for their symptoms due to the worry of requiring surgery for their deformity. The truth is, we wish to avoid surgery whenever possible, too! Pain and discomfort from foot deformities can often be managed substantially using conservative methods, making surgery unnecessary.

Types of Foot Deformities

A few of the most common types of foot deformities we see in our office include:

Arch Abnormalities

Deviations in the standard shape of the arch are common. When the arch is too high or too low (aka flat feet or flatfoot), the shift in forces it can cause can strain certain areas of the foot and/or make conditions such as sports injuries or plantar fasciitis more common.

In some cases, an abnormality in the shape of the arch does not present any symptoms. Treatment will not be necessary in these situations, but it is worth monitoring the condition over time—especially if the patient is a child. If and when problems begin to appear, they should be addressed as quickly and effectively as possible.


A bunion is a bony bump that develops at the base of the big toe. This is caused by a weakness in the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint that can cause the big toe to shift toward the second toe. In addition to pain and mobility problems, a bunion can also result in swelling, redness, corns, and calluses.

A bunion can also develop at the base of the smallest toe. This is often referred to as a bunionette or tailor’s bunion.


A hammertoe is a bending of a toe at the first joint, known as the proximal interphalangeal joint. It causes the middle of the toe to point upward, creating a semi-triangular shape.

Hammertoes tend to start out flexible, and are more susceptible to treatment in this stage. As time progresses, however, they are more likely to become rigid and immobile. At that point, surgery tends to become the only effective form of treatment.

Conservative Treatments for Foot Deformities

For many foot deformities, especially when intervention is sought early, conservative steps to manage the problem can effectively provide relief from pain and increase or maintain mobility. Treatments can also help prevent the condition from progressing further, or as quickly as it would if it went unaddressed.

Various forms of treatment we might recommend for various problems include, but are not limited to:

  • Physical therapy in the form of stretches and exercises. This can strengthen and condition supporting elements of joints and arches.
  • The use of custom orthotics to redistribute weight more evenly across the foot and reduce strain against sensitive areas.
  • The use of braces, night splints, and other equipment to hold the foot in natural positions during day and night.
  • Pads and other devices to reduce friction against shoes and other parts of the foot.

We will make our best recommendations for a comprehensive treatment plan based on a thorough evaluation. However, in some cases conservative treatments will not have the desired results, or it is clear from the start that they would not. In these situations, surgery may be the best option.

If surgery becomes a consideration, we will discuss the matter with you fully so you can make the best personal decisions moving forward.

Don’t Wait on Finding Help for Foot Deformities

The sooner most foot deformity issues are examined, diagnosed, and addressed, the better and faster the results tend to be.

That said, do not believe your case is hopeless because you’ve had it for a long time, either. There are often still conservative methods of treatment that will have a positive effect on your day-to-day comfort!

Schedule an appointment at our San Francisco office by calling (415) 426-7771 or by filling out our online contact form.