A Hammer Toe is a deformed toe that has the end of the toe bent downward like the head of a hammer instead of pointing forward. This deformity can affect any toe, but is most common in the second toe. Sometimes the toe moves into a claw-like position.
A hammer toe could be something you were born with, but in most cases it develops over time due to wearing tight or high-heeled shoes, or from arthritis.
Your toe muscles work in tandem. Hammertoes are formed when the muscles fail to work together properly. When the muscles and ligaments around the middle joint get out of balance, it creates a great deal of pressure on the tendons and joints in the toe. This can cause the toe to be permanently stuck in a bent position.
Any toe stuck in an upside-down "V" is probably a hammertoe. Most hammertoes are treatable. Our podiatrist can diagnose and treat the hammertoe deformity.
Symptoms can include:
Pain at the top of the bent toe when putting on a shoe.
Corns forming on the top of the toe joint.
The toe joint swelling and taking on an angry red color.
Difficulty in moving the toe joint - and pain when you try to.
Pain on the ball of the foot under the bent toe.
Common causes of this joint deformity include:
a toe injury
a high foot arch
wearing shoes that don’t fit properly
tightened ligaments or tendons in the foot
pressure from a bunion
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.
Our physician will examine the affected toe, and may have X-rays taken. He may splint the toe and give you special exercises to perform. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended to correct the problem.
Treating hammertoe involves straightening the toe, making tendons in the toes flexible again, and preventing the problem from returning.
Treatments for hammertoe include:
Splinting the toe to keep it straight, and to stretch the tendons of the foot
Using over-the-counter pads, cushions, or straps to decrease discomfort
Exercising the toes to relax the foot tendons (a session with a physical therapist may help you get started with foot exercises)
Wearing shoes that fit properly and allow toes plenty of room to stretch out
In advanced cases where the toe has become stiff and permanently bent, the toe can be straightened with surgery. One type of surgery involves removing a small section of the toe bone to allow the toe to lie flat.
Hammertoe is often a harmless and painless condition. Although the toe may be curled permanently, hammertoe should not cause any long-term problems other than a more difficult time finding shoes that fit.
If hammertoe is treated, and preventive measures are followed, the condition should not return. Wearing tight or constricting shoes must be avoided, because this can easily cause the toes to become bent again.