A hammertoe is a type of deformity commonly found in the lower digits of the foot. If left untreated, it can cause extreme pain and make it hard to walk and wear shoes.
What is a Hammertoe?
As mentioned above, a hammertoe is a foot deformity typically found in the lower digits of the foot. In this condition, the toe is bent at the middle joint, making it look like a hammer. Hammertoes can also lead to other foot conditions such as bunions, corns, or calluses.
There are two types of hammertoes:
- Flexible Hammertoes- This is the first stage of hammertoes where the joint and toe is still moveable. It is less serious and can be treated if caught early on.
- Rigid Hammertoes- This type is more developed and often the result of a flexible hammertoe being left untreated. The tendons are tight causing the joint to become immobile.
It can be similar to other foot deformities such as claw toe or mallet toes.
Symptoms associated with hammertoes include:
- Pain in your feet, especially while wearing shoes
- Calluses or corns that are caused by toes rubbing against your shoes
- Swelling or redness
- Bent toes
- Open sores from where the joint contracts
- Restricted or painful motion of the joint
What causes hammertoes?
Hammertoes are often the result of a muscle imbalance or due to constant improper footwear but can also be a combination of factors. Other factors may include genetics, trauma to the toe, and conditions such as arthritis or diabetes.
How can hammertoes be treated?
Treatment varies depending on the type and condition of the patient. After a thorough examination, your podiatrist will recommend the appropriate line of treatment for you.
Conservative treatment may include a change in footwear. Pick shoes that have deep shoe boxes that are half an inch longer than your longest toe. Avoid wearing tight, narrow, or high heeled shoes. Your podiatrist may also recommend toe exercises to help strengthen the muscles. Straps, pads, and cushions can be bought at local stores to help relieve pressure and discomfort while wearing shoes.
If you have diabetes, poor circulation, or nerve damage, talk to your doctor before considering self-treatment or home remedies.
Rigid hammertoes may require surgery for correction if conservative treatment fails. Surgery is often an outpatient procedure performed with a local anesthetic. The procedure will depend on the condition and extent of the patient’s deformity. After surgery, stiffness, swelling, and redness may occur.
One of the best ways to prevent hammertoes is to buy and wear shoes that fit correctly and provide you with enough support. Attend regular examinations to be aware of factors for which you may be at risk.
Foot pain and discomfort is not normal. At the first sign of pain or any noticeable changes in your feet, seek professional medical care immediately. For more information on hammertoes and their treatment, please contact Adam F. Resnikoff, DPM today.