A hammertoe is a contracture or bending of the toe at the first joint of the digit. This bending causes the toe to appear like an upside-down V when looked at from the side. Hammer toes can be flexible or rigid.
Hammertoes are more common in females than in males.
A hammertoe develops because of an abnormal balance of the muscles in the toes leading to its contracture. Heredity, arthritis, and trauma can also lead to the formation of a hammertoe.
Wearing shoes that are too tight and cause the toes to squeeze can also cause a hammertoe to form.
The symptoms of a hammer toe include the following:
- Pain at the top of the bent toe
- Formation of corns
- Redness and swelling
- Painful motion of the toe joint
- Pain in the ball of the foot
Diagnosis and Treatment
The treatment options vary with the type and severity of the toe. Identifying the deformity early in its development is important to avoid surgery. Your podiatric physician will examine and X-ray the affected area and recommend a treatment plan specific to your condition.
Padding and Taping: Often padding and taping are the first steps in a treatment plan. Padding the hammertoe prominence minimizes pain. Taping may change the imbalance around the toes and thus relieve the stress and pain.
Orthotic Devices: Custom shoe inserts made by your podiatrist may be useful in controlling foot function. An orthotic device may reduce symptoms and prevent the worsening of the hammertoe deformity.
Surgical Options: Several surgical procedures are available to the podiatric physician. For less severe deformities, the surgery will remove the bony prominence and restore normal alignment. Severe hammertoes, which are not fully reducible, may require more complex surgical procedures.
There are several things you can do to help prevent hammer toes from forming:
- Wear supportive shoes to help prevent deformities.
- Custom orthotics may slow the progression or prevent the development of hammertoes.
- Avoid shoes with narrow or pointed toe boxes that can compress the toes