Hammer toes are usually not a serious condition, but can become painful as the bent joint rubs against the inside of the shoe, causing irritation, corns, or calluses on the top of the middle joint or the tip of the toe
. A hammertoes
may also cause occasional shooting pains throughout the toes or elsewhere in the foot. A hammertoe has a kink or contracture in its second joint--called the proximal interphalangeal joint--that causes the toe
to bend upward in the middle, giving it a hammer-like appearance. The raised part of the toe
often rubs on shoes, leading to the formation of corns or calluses. Usually hammertoe affects the smaller toes, causing pain and interfering with the ability to walk normally.
The APMA says that hammertoe can result from a muscle imbalance in the foot that puts undue pressure on the joints, ultimately causing deformity. Inherited factors can contribute to the likelihood of developing hammertoe. Arthritis, stroke or nerve damage from diabetes or toe hammertoes
injuries such as jamming
or breaking a toe
can affect muscle balance in the foot, leading to hammertoe. The Mayo Clinic says that wearing improper shoes often causes hammertoe. Shoes that squeeze the toes, such as those with a tight toe
box or with heels higher than two inches, can put too much pressure on the toe
The symptoms of a hammer toe
are usually first noticed when a corn develops on the top of the toe
and becomes painful, usually when wearing tight shoes. There may be a bursa under the corn or instead of a corn, depending on the pressure. Most of the symptoms are due to pressure from footwear on the toe
. There may be a callus under the metatarsal head at the base of the toe
. Initially a hammer toe
is usually flexible, but when longstanding it becomes more rigid.
Most health care professionals can diagnose hammertoe simply by examining your toes and feet. X-rays of the feet are not needed to diagnose hammertoe, but they may be useful to look for signs of some types of arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis) or other disorders that can cause hammertoe. If the deformed toe
is very painful, your doctor may recommend that you have a fluid sample withdrawn from the joint with a needle so the fluid can be checked for signs of infection or gout (arthritis from crystal deposits).
Non Surgical Treatment
What will a doctor do? Treat any foot complaints such as corns, calluses by periodically reducing the lesion and applying appropriate pads and dressings. Recommend the silicone toe
prop. If an infection is present, then anti-septic dressings, antibiotics and pads to redistribute pressure away from the lesion may be necessary. In the case of a mallet toe
, trigger toe
or claw toe
. If a corn occurs at the end of the toe
, a silicone
or leather prop may be used to straighten the toe
. In a hammertoe deformity, a silicone
prop to redistribute pressure away from a corn may be necessary. The doctor may give footwear advice. In severe cases, corrective surgery may be necessary. The doctor may recommend orthosis to correct a mechanical complaint of the foot, such as 3/4 length silicone
If pinning the toe
is not required during the procedure, then the surgery could be preformed in the doctor's office under a local anesthesia. Some patients prefer the comfort of sedation during the surgery and if this is the case or if a pin must be placed, then the surgery could be preformed in an outpatient surgery center.
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.