What is Hammertoe?

Hammer toes are contractions of the toe caused by a muscular imbalance in the foot, where the tendons and muscles on the bottom of the foot overpower the tendons and muscles on the top.

Usually, a hammer toe has an abnormal bend in the middle joint of a toe, and may occur in your second, third and fourth toes. This condition and deformity is called hammer toe because of the resemblance of a hammer as the toes are bent.

Each toe has three joints, except the first one (the big toe), which usually has only two joints. The middle joint that is affected is called proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint. 

Treatment Options

We start by correcting faulty foot mechanics that cause the hammertoe to develop. The emphasis is also on relieving painful symptoms through anti-inflammatory medications and through relieving the pressure caused from the shoe. 

Early treatment focuses on conservative methods such as converting from a pointed-toe low toe box shoe to wider, high toe box shoes can alleviate the pressure.

There are surgical and nonsurgical options you can choose if you don’t get relief from medications and adjusting your foot mechanics. 

Here at Pathak Podiatry, our services include assessment, diagnosis, and advanced surgical and non-surgical treatment options to help restore the function to your foot and eliminate any pain. 

During a one-on-one consultation, our team can determine which option is best suited for your specific case, lifestyle, and budget.

  • Shoe gear modification: Using wider shoes with larger toe boxes;
  • Splinting, strapping, cushioning, and padding of the hammertoes;
  • Custom orthotics to stabilize and slow progression of the deformity;
  • Avoidance of activities that aggravate symptoms;
  • Anti-inflammatory medications for periodic relief;
  • Physical therapy to calm the inflammatory process.

Causes

As the toes contract they may become permanently bent in a flexed position. This deformity often causes pain when wearing closed toe shoes when the bent toe begins to rub against the top of the shoe. 

As the imbalanced muscles put pressure on the tendons and joints, if the toe is bent in one position long enough, the muscles and joints become tighter and cannot be stretched out. 

But there are a few other causes and risk factors of Hammer toe, including: 

  • Shoes that don’t fit properly and are too tight or high-heels – your feet should lay flat in your shoes to prevent your toes from bending. 
  • Trauma or injury – breaking or twisting your toes can help your develop hammertoe. 
  • Age – the risk of developing a hammer toe may increase with age.
  • Sex – women are much more likely to develop hammertoe, but this condition can also occur on men. 
  • Toe length – if your first (or big) toe is smaller than the other ones, it is a higher risk of hammertoe.
  • Diseases like arthritis and diabetes might make you more prone to develop foot deformities. And heredity is also a risk factor. 
  • Sports – some sports like ballet or gymnastics may also help the increase of hammer toe. 

The most common symptoms include swelling, redness, pain or formation of wounds on the top of the joints. 

How to prevent Hammertoe?

You can prevent not only hammertoe, but a lot more foot, heel and ankle problems with proper shoes. When buying new shoes, you should look for adequate toe room, low heels and adjustability, with laces and straps. 

And, also, you should buy shoes at the end of the day, as you feet swell throughout the day, so you are more likely to buy new shoes that fit properly in your feet. 

Don’t wait any longer and contact us to start your hammer toe treatment here at Pathak Podiatry.

Woman feeling pain on her toe

FAQ

Is surgery ever needed for Hammertoe?

Hammertoe rarely requires surgery. However, if treatment is delayed or neglected, there could be further damage. This would then require surgical repair. So don’t ignore your pain and come see us!

What are the causes of Hammertoe?

As the toes contract they may become permanently bent in a flexed position. This deformity often causes pain when wearing closed toe shoes when the bent toe begins to rub against the top of the shoe.