Hammer toes are usually not a serious condition, but can become painful as the bent joint rubs against the inside of the shoe, causing irritation, corns, or calluses on the top of the middle joint or
the tip of the toe. A hammertoe
may also cause occasional shooting pains throughout the
toes or elsewhere in the foot. A hammertoe has a kink or contracture in its second joint--called the proximal interphalangeal joint--that causes the toe to bend upward in the middle, giving it a
hammer-like appearance. The raised part of the toe often rubs on shoes, leading to the formation of corns or calluses. Usually hammertoe affects the smaller toes, causing pain and interfering with
the ability to walk normally.
The muscles of each toe work in pairs. When the toe muscles get out of balance, a hammer toe can form. Muscle imbalance puts a lot of pressure on the toe's tendons and joints. This pressure forces
the toe into a hammerhead shape. How do the toe muscles get out of balance? There are three main reasons. Your genes, you may have inherited a tendency to develop hammer toes because your foot is
slightly unstable - such as a flat foot. But high-arched feet can also get hammer toes. Arthritis. Injury to the toe: ill-fitting shoes are the main culprits of this cause. If shoes are too tight,
too short, or too pointy, they push the toes out of balance. Pointy, high-heeled shoes put particularly severe pressure on the toes.
The symptoms of a hammer toe include the following. Pain at the top of the bent toe upon pressure from footwear. Formation of corns on the top of the joint. Redness and swelling at the joint
contracture. Restricted or painful motion of the toe joint. Pain in the ball of the foot at the base of the affected toe.
A hammertoe is usually diagnosed with a physical inspection of your toe. Imaging tests, such as X-rays, may be ordered if you have had a bone, muscle, or ligament injury in your toe.
Non Surgical Treatment
There is a variety of treatment options for hammertoe. The treatment your foot and ankle surgeon selects will depend upon the severity of your hammertoe and other factors. A number of non-surgical
measures can be undertaken. Padding corns and calluses. Your foot and ankle surgeon can provide or prescribe pads designed to shield corns from irritation. If you want to try over-the-counter pads,
avoid the medicated types. Medicated pads are generally not recommended because they may contain a small amount of acid that can be harmful. Consult your surgeon about this option. Changes in
shoewear. Avoid shoes with pointed toes, shoes that are too short, or shoes with high heels, conditions that can force your toe against the front of the shoe. Instead, choose comfortable shoes with a
deep, roomy toe box and heels no higher than two inches. Orthotic devices. A custom orthotic device placed in your shoe may help control the muscle/tendon imbalance. Injection therapy. Corticosteroid
injections are sometimes used to ease pain and inflammation caused by hammertoe. Medications. Oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be recommended to reduce pain
and inflammation. Splinting/strapping. Splints or small straps may be applied by the surgeon to realign the bent toe.
There are generally two methods surgeons use to correct hammer toes, they are joint resection (arthroplasty) or bone mending (fusion), and the location where this is performed on the toe depends on
where the toe is buckled. Its important to recognize that most of the surgical work involved the joints of the toe, not the joint of the ball of the foot. Sometimes a toe relocation procedure is
needed when the joint of the ball of the foot is malaligned (subluxed or dislocated).
Early Development. The first year of life is important for foot development. Parents should cover their babies' feet loosely, allowing plenty of opportunity for kicking and exercise. Change the
child's position frequently. Children generally start to walk at 10 - 18 months. They should not be forced to start walking early. Wearing just socks or going barefoot indoors helps the foot develop
normally and strongly and allows the toes to grasp. Going barefoot outside, however, increases the risk for injury and other conditions, such as plantar warts. Children should wear shoes that are
light and flexible, and since their feet tend to perspire, their shoes should be made of materials that breathe. Replace footwear every few months as the child's feet grow. Footwear should Hammer toe
never be handed down. Protect children's feet if they participate in high-impact sports.