is the general term used to describe an abnormal contraction or "buckling" of the toe
because of a partial or complete dislocation of one of the joints of the toe
or the joint where the toe
joins with the rest of the foot. As the toe
becomes deformed, it rubs against the shoe and the irritation causes the body to build up more and thicker skin to help protect the area. The common name for the thicker skin is a corn.
The muscles of each toe
work in pairs. When the toe
muscles get out of balance, a hammer toe
can form. Muscle imbalance puts a lot of pressure on the toe
's tendons and joints. This pressure forces the toe
into a hammerhead shape. How do the toe
muscles get out of balance? There are three main reasons. Your genes, you may have inherited a tendency to develop hammer toes because your foot is slightly unstable - such as a flat
foot. But high-arched feet can also get hammer toes. Arthritis. Injury to the toe
: ill-fitting shoes are the main culprits of this cause. If shoes are too tight, too short, or too pointy, they push the toes out of balance. Pointy, high-heeled shoes put particularly severe pressure on the toes.
The most obvious symptom of hammertoe is the bent, hammer-like or claw-like appearance of one or more of your toes. Typically, the proximal joint of a toe
will be bending upward and the distal joint will be bending downward. In some cases, both joints may bend downward, causing the toes to curl
under the foot. In the variation of mallet toe
, only the distal joint bends downward. Other symptoms may include Pain and stiffness during movement of the toe
, Painful corns on the tops of the toe
or toes from rubbing against the top of the shoe's toe
box, Painful calluses on the bottoms of the toe
or toes, Pain on the bottom of the ball of the foot, Redness and swelling at the joints. If you Hammer toe
have any of these symptoms, especially the hammer shape, pain or stiffness in a toe
or toes, you should consider consulting your physician. Even if you're not significantly bothered by some of these symptoms, the severity of a hammertoe can become worse over time and should be treated as soon as possible. Up to a point hammertoes can be treated without surgery and should be taken care of before they pass that point. After that, surgery may be the only solution.
A hammertoe is usually diagnosed with a physical inspection of your toe
. Imaging tests, such as X-rays, may be ordered if you have had a bone, muscle, or ligament injury in your toe
Non Surgical Treatment
If you have hammer toe
, avoiding tight shoes and high heels may provide relief. Initial (non-surgical) treatment for hammer toe
involves wearing shoes with plenty of room in the toe
area. Shoes should be at least one-half inch longer than the longest toe
. Stretching and strengthening exercises for the toes (such as picking up items with the toes or stretching the toes by hand) are also recommended. Sometimes orthopedists recommend special pads, cushions, or slings to help relieve the pain of hammer toe
If your toe
is not bendable, your doctor may recommend surgery. The type of surgery that will be performed will depend on the severity of the condition. You should expect blood and urine studies before the procedure, as well as x-rays of your feet. Your doctor will inject either a local or regional anesthetic. If your toe
has some flexibility, the doctor may be able to straighten it by simply making an incision in the toe
to release or lengthen the tendon. If the toe
is not flexible, your doctor will probably make the same incision to release the tendon, but he or she may also remove some pieces of the bone so that the bone can be straightened. A k-wire
is placed in the toe
to help hold it straight while it is healing. This is taken out after about four weeks.
Be good to your feet, because they carry you. They are designed to last a lifetime, but that doesn?t mean they don?t need some love and care as well as some basic
maintenance. Check your feet regularly for problems. This is especially true if you have diabetes or any other medical condition that causes poor circulation or numbness in your toes. If you do, check your feet every day so problems can be caught early on. Good circulation is essential. When you're sitting down, put your feet up. If you've been sitting for a while, stretch your legs and feet. Give yourself a foot massage, or ask someone you love for a foot massage. A warm foot bath is also a good idea.