A hammertoe is a deformity that is caused in the second, third or fourth toe in which the toe becomes bent at the middle joint hence, it resembles a hammer. Claw toe and mallet toe are related conditions. While a hammertoe is contracted at the first toe joint, a mallet toe is contracted at the second toe joint, and a claw toe is contracted at both joints.
Causes of Hammer Toe
The main cause of hammertoe is poorly fitted or poorly designed footwear. Any footwear that is too tight in the toe box, especially high-heeled shoes, can push the toes forward, crowding one or more of them into a space that is not large enough to let the toes to lie flat and spread as they should. Different causes of hammertoe include the following:
- Changes in foot anatomy. Sometimes the metatarsal bones in the ball of the foot can “drop,” creating a situation in which the toes do not make contact with the surface of the shoe. The toes can then be contracted at one or both of the joints to make contact with the surface.
- Injuries in which toes are broken or jammed.
- Diabetic neuropathy. This can cause abnormal foot biomechanics due to nerve or muscle damage.
- Damage to nerves and muscles from other conditions, such as arthritis or stroke.
Symptoms of Hammer Toe
Symptoms of hammertoe may include:
- Difficulty in moving the toe that worsens over time
- Pain, especially when walking or wearing shoes
A corn may be formed on the top of the toe, and a callus may be formed underneath or at the tip of the toe and on the bottom (plantar) foot surface at the toe's metatarsophalangeal joint as these areas are subjected to pressure or rubbing from footwear.
Prevention & Treatment of Hammer Toe
To save hammertoes from developing, wear shoes or boots that provides appropriate width in the toe box to ensure minimal compression.
Use inserts that help the toes flatten out and spread and give sufficient support to the metatarsal arch in the forefoot.
If hammer toes have been already formed, padded socks can be used to help in protecting the tops and the tips and may reduce pain from rubbing and chafing.
If the affected toe is still flexible, changing to footwear with a larger toe box and lower heels can allow the toe to realign itself and help reduce pressure and pain.
If the toe has some limited flexibility, a podiatric physician or foot specialist may be able to straighten it simply by making an incision and releasing the tendon.