If you sneak a peek at your feet and notice that your toes are crossed, bent, or just pointing at an odd angle, you probably suffer from a hammertoe
. Toes that are scrunched up inside tight shoes or pressed against the toe box of the shoe can bend at the
joints and stay that way - resulting in a hammertoe. A Hammer toe
hammertoe is a contracture of the toe at one of the two joints in the toe. Due to the pull of the tendons, the joints become more rigid over time. The toe is bent up at the joint and does not
Hammertoe commonly develops because of structural changes that take place over time in the muscles and tendons that bend the toes. People with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, are at
risk for developing hammertoe. It can be an inherited condition for some people. Other causes include trauma and wearing shoes that are too tight, narrow, or have high heels. The toe next to the big
toe (second toe) is most frequently affected by hammertoe.
A hammertoe may be present but not always painful unless irritated by shoes. One may have enlarged toe joints with some thickened skin and no redness or swelling. However, if shoes create pressure on
the joint, the pain will usually range from pinching and squeezing to sharp and burning. In long standing conditions, the dislocated joints can cause the pain of arthritis.
Although hammertoes are readily apparent, to arrive at a diagnosis the foot and ankle surgeon will obtain a thorough history of your symptoms and examine your foot. During the physical examination,
the doctor may attempt to reproduce your symptoms by manipulating your foot and will study the contractures of the toes. In addition, the foot and ankle surgeon may take x-rays to determine the
degree of the deformities and assess any changes that may have occurred.
Non Surgical Treatment
Hammertoes that are not painful (asymptomatic) and still flexible may not require treatment. In mild cases, open-toed, low-heeled, or wider shoes and foam or moleskin pads can provide symptomatic
relief by reducing pressure. Taping (strapping) the affected toe can help to reduce deformity and pain. Physical therapy to instruct patients in exercises that passively stretch tight structures and
strengthen weak foot intrinsic muscles is also helpful with mild cases. Periodic trimming (debridement) of corns (clavi, helomata) by a podiatrist can provide temporary relief. Corticosteroid
injections are often very effective in reducing pain.
Surgery may not help how your foot looks. And your toe problems may also come back after surgery. This is more likely if you keep wearing the kinds of shoes that cause toe problems. Your expectations
will play a large role in how you feel about the results of surgery. If you are only having surgery to improve the way your foot looks, you may not be happy with how it turns out.