is a deformity that causes your toe to bend or curl downward instead of pointing
forward. This deformity can affect any toe on your foot; however, it most often affects the second toe or third toe. Although a hammertoe may be present at birth, it usually develops over time due to
wearing ill-fitting shoes or arthritis. In most cases, a hammertoe is treatable.
Hammer toe most frequently results from wearing poorly fitting shoes that can force the toe into a bent position, such as excessively high heels or shoes that are too short or narrow for the foot.
Having the toes bent for long periods of time can cause the muscles in them to shorten, resulting in the hammer toe deformity. This is often found in conjunction with bunions or other foot problem
(e.g., a bunion can force the big toe to turn inward and push the other toes). It can also be caused by muscle, nerve, or joint damage resulting from conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid
arthritis, stroke, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, complex regional pain syndrome or diabetes. Hammer toe can also be found in Friedreich's ataxia.
Well-developed hammertoes are distinctive due to the abnormal bent shape of the toe. However, there are many other common symptoms. Some symptoms may be present before the toe becomes overly bent or
fixed in the contracted position. Often, before the toe becomes permanently contracted, there will be pain or irritation over the top of the toe, particularly over the joint. The symptoms are
pronounced while wearing shoes due to the top of the toe rubbing against the upper portion of the shoe. Often, there is a significant amount of friction between the toe and the shoe or between the
toe and the toes on either side of it. The corns may be soft or hard, depending on their location and age. The affected toe may also appear red with irritated skin. In more severe cases, blisters or
open sores may form. Those with diabetes should take extra care if they develop any of these symptoms, as they could lead to further complications.
First push up on the bottom of the metatarsal head associated with the affected toe and see if the toe straightens out. If it does, then an orthotic could correct the problem, usually with a
metatarsal pad. If the toe does not straighten out when the metatarsal head is pushed up, then that indicates that contracture in the capsule and ligaments (capsule contracts because the joint was in
the wrong position for too long) of the MTP joint has set in and surgery is required. Orthotics are generally required post-surgically.
Non Surgical Treatment
Wearing proper footwear may ease your foot pain. Low-heeled shoes with a deep toe box and flexible material covering the toes may help. Make sure there's a half-inch of space between your longest toe
and the inside tip of your shoe. Allowing adequate space for your toes will help relieve pressure and pain. Avoid over-the-counter corn-removal hammertoes
products, many of which contain acid that can cause severe skin
irritation. It's also risky to try shaving or cutting an unsightly corn off your toe. Foot wounds can easily get infected, and foot infections are often difficult to treat, especially if you have
diabetes or poor circulation.
Toes can be surgically realigned and made straight again. They can even be made shorter. The good news is that toes can be corrected. Hammer toe surgery is often synonymous with ?toe shortening?,
?toe job? and/or ?toe augmentation?. Depending on the severity and length of the toe, there are several methods to surgically correct a hammer toe. In general, the surgery involves removing a portion
of the bone at the contracted joint, to realign the toe.
Certain exercises such as moving and stretching your toe gently with your hands and picking up small or soft objects such as marbles or towels can keep your toe joints flexible, simple exercises can
stretch and strengthen your muscles. Limit high-heel use, well-designed flat shoes will be more comfortable than high heels. Don't wear shoes that are too short or too narrow, or too shallow, this is
especially important for children going through periods of rapid growth, the toe area should be high enough so that it doesn't rub against the top of your toes.