A Hammer toes
is a contracture of the toes as a result of a muscle imbalance between the tendons on the top
and the tendons on the bottom of the toe. They can be flexible or rigid in nature. When they are rigid, it is not possible to straighten the toe out by manipulating it. Frequently, they develop corns
on the top of the toe as a result of rubbing on the shoe. They may also cause a bothersome callous on the ball of the foot. This occurs as a result of the toe pressing downward on the bone behind the
toe. This area then becomes prominent and the pressure of the bone against the ground causes a callous to form.
Poorly fitting shoes and muscle imbalances are the most common causes of hammertoe. When shoes are too narrow or do not accommodate the shape and size of your feet, they often contort the position of
your toes. Choosing a shoe that fits is very important when it comes to avoiding foot problems like bunions or hammertoe. Having your toes bent for an extended period of time in a shoe that is too
narrow or small forces your toes to adapt to the cramped space. With time, the muscles in your feet become accustomed to holding the flexed position of your toes, making it harder, or even impossible
to straighten them.
A hammertoe may be present but not always painful unless irritated by shoes. One may have enlarged toe joints with some thickened skin and no redness or swelling. However, if shoes create pressure on
the joint, the pain will usually range from pinching and squeezing to sharp and burning. In long standing conditions, the dislocated joints can cause the pain of arthritis.
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
The most common treatment is to wear more comfortable shoes. When choosing a shoe, make sure the toe area is high and broad and has enough room for hammer toes. If there is chronic pain, surgery may
be needed to correct a malalignment. Surgical treatments are aimed at loosening up the contracted toe joints to allow them to align properly. Other types of treatment are products designed to relieve
hammer toes, such as hammer toe crests and hammer toe splints. These devices will help hold down the hammer toe and provide relief to the forefoot. Gel toe shields and gel toe caps can also be used.
Gel toe shields and toe caps will help eliminate friction between the shoe and the toe, while providing comfort and lubrication.
Extreme occurrences of hammer toe may call for surgery. Your surgeon will decide which form of surgery will best suit your case. Often, the surgeon may hammertoes
have to cut or remove a tendon or ligament. Depending on the severity of your condition, the bones on both
sides of the joint afflicted may need to be fused together. The good news is you can probably have your surgery and be released to go home in one day. You will probably experience some stiffness in
your toe, but it might last for a short period, then your long-term pain will be eliminated.