A Hammer toe
is a term used to describe a crooked, deviated, or contracted toe. Although the
condition usually stems from muscle imbalance, it is often aggravated by poor-fitting shoes or socks that cramp the toes. Over a period of years, the tendons that move the toe up and down begin to
pull the toe with unequal tension, and the toe then begins to buckle or become contracted, causing an abnormal "v"-shaped bending of the little toes. Patients with this condition often experience
pain, swelling, redness and stiffness in the affected toes.
Claw, hammer and mallet toe are most commonly caused by wearing high heels or ill-fitting shoes that are too tight e.g. narrow toebox. If shoes like this are worn for long periods, the foot is held
in a slightly bent position hammertoes
and gradually over time, the muscles tighten and shorten. If this
continues for long enough, then the muscles become so tight that even when shoes are removed, the toe is still held in the bent position. Another common cause is Morton?s Toe, where the second toe is
longer than the big toe. In this case, the second toe is commonly squashed into a shoe into an unnaturally bent position.
Hammer toe is often distinguished by a toe stuck in an upside-down ?V? position, and common symptoms include corns on the top of your toe joint. Pain at the top of a bent toe when you put on your
shoes. Pain when moving a toe joint. Pain on the ball of your foot under the bent toe. Corns developing on the top of the toe joint. It is advisable to seek medical advice if your feet hurt on a
regular basis. It is imperative to act fast and seek the care of a podiatrist or foot surgeon. By acting quickly, you can prevent your problem from getting worse.
First push up on the bottom of the metatarsal head associated with the affected toe and see if the toe straightens out. If it does, then an orthotic could correct the problem, usually with a
metatarsal pad. If the toe does not straighten out when the metatarsal head is pushed up, then that indicates that contracture in the capsule and ligaments (capsule contracts because the joint was in
the wrong position for too long) of the MTP joint has set in and surgery is required. Orthotics are generally required post-surgically.
Non Surgical Treatment
Wear wide shoes with plenty of room in the toes and resilient soles. Avoid wearing shoes with pointed toes. Commercially available felt pads or cushions may ease pressure from the shoe on the toe.
Toe caps (small, padded sleeves that fit around the tip of the toe) may relieve the pain of hammer toe. Do toe exercises, to help toe muscles become stronger and more flexible.
Arch supports or an orthotic shoe insert prescribed by your doctor or podiatrist may help to redistribute weight on the foot. These devices do not cure the problem but may ease the symptoms of either
hammer toe or mallet toe.
Sometimes surgery can not be avoided. If needed, the surgery chosen is decided by whether we are dealing with a flexible or rigid hammer toe. If the surgery is on a flexible hammer toe, it is
performed on soft tissue structures like the tendon and or capsule of the flexor hammer toe. Rigid hammer toes need bone surgeries into the joint of the toe to repair it. This bone surgery is called
There are several things you can do to help prevent hammer toes from forming or progressing. Wear supportive shoes to help prevent deformities. Hammer toes are often related to faulty foot mechanics,
especially foot flattening. Wear custom orthotics prescribed by your podiatrist. Orthotics may slow the progression or prevent the development of hammer toes. Avoid shoes with narrow or pointed toe
boxes that can compress the toes.