is a contracture (bending) of one or both joints of the second, third, fourth, or hammertoe
fifth (little) toes. This abnormal bending can put pressure on the toe when wearing shoes, causing
problems to develop. Hammertoes usually start out as mild deformities and get progressively worse over time. In the earlier stages, hammer toes are flexible and the symptoms can often be managed with
noninvasive measures. But if left untreated, hammer toes can become more rigid and will not respond to non-surgical treatment. Because of the progressive nature of hammertoes, they should receive
early attention. Hammertoes never get better without some kind of intervention.
The cause of hammertoes varies, but causes include genetics, arthritis and injury to the toe. Treatment for hammertoes depends on the severity and can include anti-inflammatory medication, metatarsal
pads, foot exercises and better-fitting shoes. If the pain caused by a hammertoe is so severe that wearing a shoe is uncomfortable, surgery may be necessary. Typically this surgery is an outpatient
procedure that doesn?t require general anesthesia, though it is an option. Recovery from surgery usually takes a few weeks, and patients are given special shoes to wear.
At first, a hammertoe or mallet toe may maintain its flexibility and lie flat when you're not wearing crowded footwear. But eventually, the tendons of the toe may contract and tighten, causing your
toe to become permanently stiff. Your shoes can rub against the raised portion of the toe or toes, causing painful corns or calluses.
Your healthcare provider will examine your foot, checking for redness, swelling, corns, and calluses. Your provider will also measure the flexibility of your toes and test how much feeling you have
in your toes. You may have blood tests to check for arthritis, diabetes, and infection.
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.
If a person's toes have become very inflexible and unresponsive to non-invasive means of treatment and if open sores have developed as a result of constant friction, they may receive orthopaedic
surgery to correct the deformity. The operation is quick and is commonly performed as an out-patient procedure. The doctor administers a local anesthetic into the person's foot to numb the site of
the operation. The person may remain conscious as the surgeon performs the procedure. A sedative might also be administered to help calm the person if they are too anxious.
Prevention of a hammertoe can be difficult as symptoms do not arise until the problem exists. Wearing shoes that have extra room in the toes may eliminate the problem or slow down the deformity from
getting worse. Sometimes surgery is recommended for the condition. If the area is irritated with redness, swelling, and pain some ice and anti-inflammatory medications may be helpful. The best
prevention may be to get advice from your podiatrist.