What are hammertoes?
A hammertoe refers to a deformity in the toe in which the toe starts to bend downwards. The bend usually occurs at the level of the middle joint in the toes. To explain the anatomy of a lesser toe, the toes have three bones called phalanges and a joint in between each phalange called an interphalangeal joint. Hammertoe deformities are commonly seen in the smaller toes of the feet.
Hammertoes start flexible, meaning the toe can be manipulated and bent. Over time, the hammertoe may progress and become rigid. When the hammertoe is rigid, it is no longer able to move at the level of the joint and is “stuck” in that bent position.
What are symptoms of hammertoes?
- Bend in the toes
- Redness/possible sores on toes
- Calluses/corns that develop from friction
What causes hammertoes?
Hammertoes are caused by an imbalance in the musculature of the toes usually secondary to your foot structure. Hammertoes can be hereditary. They can also be caused by trauma and arthritis. Bunions can also lead to hammertoes by placing pressure on the second toe. Wearing too tight or small of shoes can also contribute to the development of a hammertoe.
How do you prevent hammertoes?
- Wear shoes with a wider toe box
- Wear shoes with custom orthotics. These will help create support for your feet and can decrease the muscle imbalance causing the hammertoe.
- Avoid high heels
How do you treat hammertoes?
We always start treatment conservatively. This can include:
- Changing shoes to more supportive shoes with a deeper toebox
- Orthotics to support foot structure and decrease progression
- Padding/strapping may be applied to reduce pressure and pain
- NSAIDs for pain
If conservative treatment does not provide relief, surgical intervention is an option. There are different surgical procedures depending on the severity and rigidity of the hammertoe. Surgery is done in an outpatient setting. Patient is typically able to walk in a surgical shoe or boot following surgery.
If you are concerned you may have hammertoes, the podiatrists at Star Foot & Ankle Specialists can help! Click HERE to schedule an appointment.