Hammertoe is a condition in which the toes of your feet become contracted into an upside-down "V" shape, causing pain, pressure and, often, corns and calluses. hammertoes
can develop on any of the toes, but generally affects the middle three toes, most often the second toe. The
bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons of your feet normally are well-balanced to distribute your body's weight while standing, walking and running. When the first and second joints of your toes
experience the prolonged stress that develops when the muscles that control them fail to work together properly, the pressure on the tendons that support them can lead to the curling or contraction
known as hammertoe.
Hammer toe results from shoes that don't fit properly or a muscle imbalance, usually in combination with one or more other factors. Muscles work in pairs to straighten and bend the toes. If the toe
is bent and held in one position long enough, the muscles tighten and cannot stretch out. Shoes that narrow toward the toe may make your forefoot look smaller. But they also push the smaller toes
into a flexed (bent) position. The toes rub against the shoe, leading to the formation of corns and calluses, which further aggravate the condition. A higher heel forces the foot down and squishes
the toes against the shoe, increasing the pressure and the bend in the toe. Eventually, the toe muscles become unable to straighten the toe, even when there is no confining shoe.
Symptoms of a hammertoe are usually first noticed as a corn on the top of the toe or at the tip which produces pain with walking or wearing tight shoes. Most people feel a corn is due to a skin
problem on their toes, which in fact, it is protecting the underlying bone deformity. A corn on the toe is sometimes referred to as a heloma dura hammertoe
or heloma durum, meaning hard corn. This is most common at the level of the affected joint due to
continuous friction of the deformity against your shoes.
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
Apply a commercial, nonmedicated hammertoe pad around the bony prominence of the hammertoe. This will decrease pressure on the area. Wear a shoe with a deep toe box. If the hammertoe becomes inflamed
and painful, apply ice packs several times a day to reduce swelling. Avoid heels more than two inches tall. A loose-fitting pair of shoes can also help protect the foot while reducing pressure on the
affected toe, making walking a little easier until a visit to your podiatrist can be arranged. It is important to remember that, while this treatment will make the hammertoe feel better, it does not
cure the condition. A trip to the podiatric physician?s office will be necessary to repair the toe to allow for normal foot function. Avoid wearing shoes that are too tight or narrow. Children should
have their shoes properly fitted on a regular basis, as their feet can often outgrow their shoes rapidly. See your podiatric physician if pain persists.
Surgery to straighten the toe may be needed if an ulcer has formed on either the end or the top surface of the toe. Surgery sometimes involves cutting the tendons that support movement in the toe so
that the toe can be straightened. Cutting the tendons, however, takes away the ability to bend the very end of the toe. Another type of surgery combines temporary insertion of a pin or rod into the
toe and alteration or repair of the tendons, so that the toe is straightened. After surgery, the deformity rarely recurs.