A hammertoe is an abnormal bending of one or both joints of the second, third, fourth or fifth toe.
They usually begin as a mild deformity and progressively worsen over time. Painful corns (a buildup of skin) on the top, side, between, and end of the toe develop due to constant friction against the shoe. Calluses on the ball of the foot or the bottom of the toe may also develop. Hammertoes also cause pain because the joint itself may dislocate. It is best to treat hammertoes in their early stages as they are usually flexible and may be treated non-invasively. Hammertoes can become more rigid over time and will not respond to non-surgical treatment.
Hammertoes are commonly caused by a muscle/tendon imbalance. Those with bunions will find that the second toe will elevate and become hammered to make room for the big toe that is moving toward it. Patients that have a high arched foot can have an increased chance of hammertoes occurring. This leads to a bending of the toe which results in structural changes in the foot. Wearing ill-fitting shoes will aggravate the condition. In some cases improperly fitted shoes can cause the hammertoe. Shoes that crowd the toes or force the toes into a cramped position can actually cause the contracture (bend) that defines the hammertoe.
Trauma, such a previously broken toe, can also cause a hammertoe. Heredity is also a factor.
Depending on the severity of your hammertoe, there are several non-surgical treatments available.
- Trimming of corns and calluses. This should only be done by a healthcare professional.
- Padding corns and calluses. Medicated pads are not recommended.
- Changes in footwear
When Is Surgery Needed?
When the hammertoe has become more rigid, surgery is needed to relieve the pain. Dr. Hausen will evaluate your condition, carefully examine your x-rays and select a plan tailored to your needs.