Two long-time patients came in to see me yesterday. They and about 35 others keep coming back every 6-10 months for what my dancers call my "putty toes." Though I make putty toes for ballerinas and Rockettes, most people who come in for them are not dancers, but housewives, moms, businesswomen, lawyers, and the occasional businessman. They're people who had been told by one or more other doctors that they had no choice but surgery for their painful hammertoes. Fortunately for several hundred patients in my 28-year career, there are non-surgical alternatives.
We all know you can visit a podiatrist to have your corns trimmed on a regular basis. But very often putty toes eliminate the need for all but the infrequent visit for trimming, if even that. So I'd best describe these little talismans. Simply, they're reusable, durable hand-made rubber-like forms which fit in all but the absolute tightest shoes (they fit in pointe shoes). I mold a quick-curing silicone around the toes and anticipate the position of the toes within the shoes intended. I anticipate the shape of the shoe toe box, and simply hold the clay-like material around the toes in question for 15-30 seconds until it assumes its permanent shape.
Now my patient has a streamlined little gadget she or he can put over the toes before putting on shoes. The shape will be thinnest where the pressure spots are, and thickest where there is the least shoe pressure. This makes an exact, egalitarian weight-share within the shoe. I get such a kick out of making them for people because they're almost always delighted!