A hammer toe is a deformity that causes your toe to curl downward instead of pointing forward. While it can be found on any toe, this deformity most often affects the second or third toe.
A hammer toe may be present at birth and usually develops over time due to arthritis or wearing tight-fitting shoes, such as pointed heels and small dress shoes.
In most cases, a hammer toe condition is manageable.
Hammer toes can be a serious problem in people with diabetes or poor circulation because they are at a higher risk for contracting infections and ulcers.
Custom orthopedic shoes may prevent these complications if recommended by your podiatrist. People with these conditions should see a doctor at the first sign of foot trouble.
There are two main types of hammer toe; flexible and rigid.
Flexible Hammer Toe
The flexible variety of hammer toe is characteristic of being able to move the toe joint a small amount. This is an earlier, less severe form of hammer toe.
Rigid Hammer Toe
If the tendons in the toe become rigid, they press the joint out of alignment. At this stage, the toe can’t be moved without pain, and surgery is necessary.
Causes of Hammer Toe
A hammertoe occurs from an imbalance to the muscle and ligament around the toe joint. This causes the middle of the toe joint to bend and become stuck in a downward position.
The most common complaint with hammertoes is rubbing and irritation on the top of the bent toe.
Common causes of hammer toe include:
- High arches
- Tight-fitting shoes
- Tight ligaments/tendons
- Pressure from a bunion
- Spinal cord or nerve damage
Certain risk factors increase your likelihood of developing a hammer toe. These include a family history of the condition, chronically wearing tight and pointy-toed shoes, and having calluses, bunions, or corns, which are thickened layers of skin caused by prolonged and repeated pressure.
Hammer toe can be an uncomfortable and painful condition due to the misshapen toes that result. Walking on the affected toe can prove to be difficult, as well as stretching it out. Trying to stretch the toes back into position can also cause pain, and will only worsen the case. There are more severe symptoms of hammer toe that include:
- Corn formation
- Red, swollen toe joint
- Painful to move/stretch toe
- Ball of foot near affected toe is tender
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact our clinic as soon as possible.
Hammer Toe Treatment
Upon seeing your doctor for treatment of hammer toe, you will likely undergo an X-ray so the podiatrist can visualize the extent of the bone abnormality. There are a few treatment options your doctor may recommend that include custom insoles for your shoes, cortisone injections to improve flexibility and reduce pain, as well as a hammer toe surgery.
If the severity and pain related to your case is great enough, corrective surgery may be the only way to wholly solve the issue.
With the hammer toe correction procedure, the toe can be shortened, straightened out and/or unbuckled. Contact us today to see which hammer toe treatment option is right for you.