The term hammertoes
refers to a common deformity of the foot in which either the second, third, or fourth toe is bent at the middle joint,
so that the tip of the toe is bent downward while the middle of the toe is cocked upward resembling a hammer. The hammer toe deformity is the most common deformity of the small toes. When a hammer
toe first develops, it can be bent back into its normal position. If not treated, a hammer toe may become rigid and require surgical correction in order to correct the deformity. Symptoms and signs
associated with hammer toe include corns or calluses on the affected toe and pain in the affected area. It may be difficult for people suffering from hammer toe to find comfortable shoes.
Hammer toe is often caused by wearing shoes that do not fit properly. If shoes are too small either in length or width, then the toes are held in a shortened position for long periods and the muscles
eventually shorten and pull the toes into the bent position. Alternatively it can be caused by overactivity in the extensor digitorum dongus muscle (right) and a weakness in the counteracting muscle
under the foot, such as flexor digitorum longus. Sometimes it can be a congenital condition, meaning it is present from birth. It is also more common in those with arthritis in the foot or
A hammertoe causes you discomfort when you walk. It can also cause you pain when trying to stretch or move the affected toe or those around it. Hammertoe symptoms may be mild or severe. Mild
Symptoms, a toe that is bent downward, corns or calluses. Severe Symptoms, difficulty walking, the inability to flex your foot hammertoes
or wiggle your toes, claw-like toes. See your doctor or podiatrist right away if you develop any
of these symptoms.
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
A number of approaches can be undertaken to the manage a hammer toe. It is important that any footwear advice is followed. The correct amount of space in the toe box will allow room for the toes to
function without excessive pressure. If a corn is present, this will need to be treated. If the toe is still flexible, it may be possible to use splints or tape to try and correct the toe. Without
correct fitting footwear, this is often unsuccessful. Padding is often used to get pressure off the toe to help the symptoms. If conservative treatment is unsuccessful at helping the symptoms,
surgery is often a good option.
Hammer toe can be corrected by surgery if conservative measures fail. Usually, surgery is done on an outpatient basis with a local anesthetic. The actual procedure will depend on the type and extent
of the deformity. After the surgery, there may be some stiffness, swelling and redness and the toe may be slightly longer or shorter than before. You will be able to walk, but should not plan any
long hikes while the toe heals, and should keep your foot elevated as much as possible.
Daily modifications and correct shoe choices can prevent and slow the progression of hammertoe deformities. The main cause in hammertoe deformities is muscle/tendon dysfunction. Wearing of
ill-fitting, tight, high heeled shoes contributes to the progression to hammertoe deformities. Also, bunion conditions can enhance the formation of hammertoes. A key to prevention of hammertoes is
the wearing of correct footwear, specifically shoes with appropriate support and a deep, wide toe box.