A Hammer toes
is a term that is commonly used to describe any type of toe
deformity. It is a common problem that may or may not be a problem. What does a hammer toe look like? In a hammertoe the deformity usually exists in one toe (at the proximal inter phalangeal joint) -
the base of the toe points upward and the end of the toe points down.
A common cause of hammertoe and mallet toe is wearing improper footwear - shoes that are too tight in the toe box, or high-heel shoes. Wearing shoes of either type can push your toes forward,
crowding one or more of them into a space that's not large enough to allow your toes to lie flat. Hammertoe and mallet toe deformities can also be inherited and may occur despite wearing appropriate
footwear. The result is a toe that bends upward in the middle and then curls down in a hammer-like or claw-like shape. Your shoes can rub against the raised portion of the toe or toes, causing
painful corns or calluses. The bottom of the affected toe can press down, creating the mallet-like appearance of mallet toe. At first, a hammertoe or mallet toe may maintain its flexibility and lie
flat when you're not wearing crowded footwear. But eventually, the tendons of the toe may contract and tighten, causing your toe to become permanently stiff.
Here is a look at some of the symptoms hammertoe can cause. They include hammer-like or claw-like appearance of the toe. Pain when walking or moving the foot. Difficulty moving the toe. Corns may
form on top of the toe. Callus may form on the sole of the foot. During the initial stages, you may be able to manually straighten your toe. This is called a flexible hammertoe. But as time passes,
the toe will not move as easily and will continue to look like a hammer. Pressure and irritation over the joint can cause a blister to develop and become a corn over time. These corns have the
potential to become infected and cause additional symptoms such as redness, bleeding, and hammertoe
difficulty wearing shoes and socks. Corns are the main cause of pain when hammertoes are developing.
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
Wear wide shoes with plenty of room in the toes and resilient soles. Avoid wearing shoes with pointed toes. Commercially available felt pads or cushions may ease pressure from the shoe on the toe.
Toe caps (small, padded sleeves that fit around the tip of the toe) may relieve the pain of hammer toe. Do toe exercises, to help toe muscles become stronger and more flexible.
Arch supports or an orthotic shoe insert prescribed by your doctor or podiatrist may help to redistribute weight on the foot. These devices do not cure the problem but may ease the symptoms of either
hammer toe or mallet toe.
If conservative measures fail to provide relief, or if your hammertoe is in advanced stages with rigidity and a significant amount of pain, surgery may be required. Some patients also require surgery
if they have open sores or wounds related to their hammertoe. For patients who also suffer from bunions, a combined procedure may be appropriate, addressing both conditions within the same surgery.
Recovery time will vary from patient to patient, depending on the extent of the surgical repair and other conditions that may also be present.
The best first step you can take is to evaluate your shoe choices. Ditch any shoes that aren?t serving your feet well. Shoes that crowd the front of your foot, especially around your toes, aggravate
the existing condition and can also cause the condition to develop. If you suspect the development of hammertoe, you may also try using protective pads to prevent irritation and the development of
corns. Custom orthotics to correct muscle imbalances in your feet may also help prevent hammertoe.