is a toe that tends to remain bent at the middle joint in a claw-like position.
There are 2 types of hammer toe. Flexible hammer toe, can be straightened by hand. Rigid hammer toe, cannot be pulled straight and can be extremely painful. The position of the toe can also lead to
corns or calluses. These may also be painful. Hammer toe may be present at birth or develop later in life due to tendons that have tightened, causing the toe's joints to curl downward. Occasionally,
all toes may be bent. This may be due to problems with the peripheral nerves or the spinal cord.
Hammer toe is often caused by wearing shoes that do not fit properly. If shoes are too small either in length or width, then the toes are held in a shortened position for long periods and the muscles
eventually shorten and pull the toes into the bent position. Alternatively it can be caused by overactivity in the extensor digitorum dongus muscle (right) and a weakness in the counteracting muscle
under the foot, such as flexor digitorum longus. Sometimes it can be a congenital condition, meaning it is Hammer toe
present from birth. It is also more common in those with arthritis in the foot or diabetes.
Pain upon pressure at the top of the bent toe from footwear. The formation of corns on the top of the joint. Redness and swelling at the joint contracture. Restricted or painful motion of the toe
joint. Pain in the ball of the foot at the base of the affected toe.
Some questions your doctor may ask of you include, when did you first begin having foot problems? How much pain are your feet or toes causing you? Where is the pain located? What, if anything, seems
to improve your symptoms? What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms? What kind of shoes do you normally wear? Your doctor can diagnose hammertoe or mallet toe by examining your foot. Your
doctor may also order X-rays to further evaluate the bones and joints of your feet and toes.
Non Surgical Treatment
In the earlier stages of hammer toe, when the toes can still be manually straightened, then conservative treatment is appropriate. This means wearing shoes which are a half size bigger than normal
and which are not narrow around the toes. Exercises to stretch the toes out and strengthen the muscles under the foot which balances the tightness of the top tendons are important. Padding or corn
plasters can be used to ease the discomfort of any associated corns and calluses.
There are generally two methods surgeons use to correct hammer toes, they are joint resection (arthroplasty) or bone mending (fusion), and the location where this is performed on the toe depends on
where the toe is buckled. Its important to recognize that most of the surgical work involved the joints of the toe, not the joint of the ball of the foot. Sometimes a toe relocation procedure is
needed when the joint of the ball of the foot is malaligned (subluxed or dislocated).
Some different things you can do to help prevent hammer toes from forming and progressing do exist. You can wear supportive shoes to help prevent deformities. Hammer toes are often times related to
poor foot mechanics, particularly foot flattening. You can wear custom orthotics prescribed by a podiatrist; orthotics might prevent or slow the progression of hammer toes. You can also avoid shoes
with narrow or pointed toe boxes that can compress your toes.