A Hammer toe
is a term used to describe a crooked, deviated, or contracted toe. Although the condition usually stems
from muscle imbalance, it is often aggravated by poor-fitting shoes or socks that cramp the toes. Over a period of years, the tendons that move the toe up and down begin to pull the toe with unequal
tension, and the toe then begins to buckle or become contracted, causing an abnormal ?v?-shaped bending of the little toes. Patients with this condition often experience pain, swelling, redness and
stiffness in the affected toes.
A common cause of hammer toe is wearing shoes that do not fit properly. Poorly-fitting shoes can hold the toes in an abnormal position and result in tightening of the muscles required to maintain
that position. In particular, shoes that have high heels and are narrow at front tend to push the toes into an abnormal, bent position. Less commonly, diseases of the nerves, muscles, or joints (such
as arthritis) can result in the hammer toe deformity.
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.
The treatment options vary with the type and severity of each hammer toe, although identifying the deformity early in its development is important to avoid surgery. Your podiatric physician will
examine and X-ray the affected area and recommend a treatment plan specific to your condition.
Non Surgical Treatment
Often padding and taping are the first steps in a treatment plan. Padding the hammer toe prominence minimizes pain and allows the patient to continue a normal, active life. Taping may change the
imbalance around the toes and thus relieve the stress and pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections can be prescribed to ease acute pain and inflammation caused by the joint deformity.
Custom shoe inserts made by your podiatrist may be useful in controlling foot function. An orthotic device may reduce symptoms and prevent the worsening of the hammer toe deformity.
In more advanced cases of hammer toe, or when the accompanying pain cannot be relieved by conservative treatment, surgery may be required. Different types of surgical procedures are performed to
correct hammer toe, depending on the location and extent of the problem. Surgical treatment is generally effective for both flexible and fixed (rigid) forms of hammer toe. Recurrence following
surgery may develop in persons with flexible hammer toe, particularly if they resume wearing poorly-fitted shoes after the deformity Hammer toe