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.
Risk factors for hammertoe include heredity, a second toe that is longer than the first (Morton foot), high arches or flat feet, injury in which the toe was jammed, rheumatoid arthritis, and, in
diabetics, abnormal foot mechanics resulting from muscle and nerve damage. Hammertoe may be precipitated by advancing age, weakness of small muscles in the foot (foot intrinsic muscles), and the
wearing of shoes that crowd the toes (too tight, too short, or with heels that are too high). The condition is more common in females than in males.
The most obvious symptoms of this injury will be the the middle toe joint is permanently bent at an angle. In the beginning movement may still be possible but as time passes and the injury worsens
the toe will be locked in place and possible require hammer toe correction surgery to fix. Another key indicator of hammer toe is that a lump or corn will form on top of the toe. The toe joint will
be painful and walking can cause severe discomfort. Occasionally a callus may form on the sole of the injured foot. If you see any of these symptoms together or have been enduring pain for some time,
seeing a podiatrist should be your next step.
The earlier a hammertoe is diagnosed, the better the prognosis and treatment options. Your doctor will be able to diagnose your hammertoe with a simple examination of the foot and your footwear. He
or she may take an x-ray to check the severity of the condition. You may also be asked about your symptoms, your normal daily activities, and your medical and family history.
Non Surgical Treatment
Hammertoes that are not painful (asymptomatic) and still flexible may not require treatment. In mild cases, open-toed, low-heeled, or wider shoes and foam or moleskin pads hammertoe
can provide symptomatic relief by reducing pressure. Taping (strapping) the affected toe
can help to reduce deformity and pain. Physical therapy to instruct patients in exercises that passively stretch tight structures and strengthen weak foot intrinsic muscles is also helpful with mild
cases. Periodic trimming (debridement) of corns (clavi, helomata) by a podiatrist can provide temporary relief. Corticosteroid injections are often very effective in reducing pain.
Surgical correction is needed to bring the toe into a corrected position and increase its function. Correction of the hammer toes is a simple outpatient surgery, with limited downtime. The best
option is to fuse the deformed and contracted toe into a straight position. This limits the need for future surgery and deformity return. A new pin that absorbs in the bone or small screw is used by
the Foot and Ankle Institute to avoid the need for a metal pin protruding from the toe during recovery. Although the absorbable pin is not for everyone, it is much more comfortable than the pin
protruding from the end of the toe. In certain cases, a removal of a small area of bone in the deformity area will decrease pain and limit the need for a surgical waiting period that is found with
fusions. Although the toe is not as stable as with a fusion, in certain cases, an arthroplasty is the best option.
As long as hammertoe causes no pain or any change in your walking or running gait, it isn?t harmful and doesn't require treatment. The key to prevention is to wear shoes that fit you properly and
provide plenty of room for your toes.