A Hammer toes
is a deformity that causes your toe
to bend or curl
downward instead of pointing forward. This deformity can affect any toe
on your foot; however, it most often affects the second toe
or third toe
. Although a hammertoe may be present at birth, it usually develops over time due to wearing ill-fitting shoes or arthritis. In most cases, a hammertoe is treatable.
The APMA says that hammertoe can result from a muscle imbalance in the foot that puts undue pressure on the joints, ultimately causing deformity. Inherited factors can contribute to the likelihood of developing hammertoe. Arthritis, stroke or nerve damage from diabetes or toe
injuries such as jamming
or breaking a toe
can affect muscle balance in the foot, leading to hammertoe. The Mayo Clinic says that wearing improper shoes often causes hammertoe. Shoes that squeeze the toes, such as those with a tight toe
box or with heels higher than two inches, can put too much pressure on the toe
Common symptoms of hammertoes include pain or irritation of the affected toe
when wearing shoes. corns and calluses (a buildup of skin) on the toe
, between two toes, or on the ball of the foot. Corns are caused by constant friction against the shoe. They may be soft or hard, depending upon their location. Inflammation, redness, or a burning sensation. Contracture of the toe
. In more severe cases of hammertoe, open sores may form.
Most health care professionals can diagnose hammertoe simply by examining your toes and feet. X-rays of the feet are not needed to diagnose hammertoe, but they may be useful to look for signs of some types of arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis) or other disorders that can cause hammertoe.
Non Surgical Treatment
If the affected toe
is still flexible, you may be able to treat it by taping or splinting the toe
to hold it straight. Your family doctor can show you how to do this. You may also try corrective footwear, corn pads and other devices to reduce pain. You may need to do certain exercises to keep your toe
joints flexible. For example, you may need to move and stretch your toe
gently with your hands. You can also exercise by picking things up with your toes. Small or soft objects, such as marbles or towels, work best. If your hammer toe
becomes painful, you may need to apply an ice pack several times a day. This can help relieve the soreness and swelling. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (also called NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (two brand names: Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (one brand name: Aleve), may be helpful. If your pain and swelling are severe, your doctor may need to give you a steroid injection in the toe
In some cases, usually when the hammertoe has become more rigid and painful, or when an open sore has developed, surgery is needed. Often patients with hammertoe have bunions or other foot deformities corrected at the same time. In selecting the procedure or combination of procedures for your particular case, the foot and ankle surgeon will take into consideration the extent of your deformity, the number of toes involved, your age, your activity level, and other factors. The length of the recovery period will vary, depending on Hammer toe
the procedure or procedures performed.
Wear thick-soled shoes if you walk on hard surfaces on a regular basis. Wear shoes with low heels. Have your feet checked regularly by a podiatrist to ensure that no deformities or conditions are developing. Do stretching exercises daily to strengthen the muscles in your feet.