Treatment of Hammertoe

The feet are complex structures composed of 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These all work together to get us through every step of our way. Sadly, things can go awry.

Hammertoe are deformities where one or more of the smaller toes become bent at the middle joint, making them look much like a hammer. This condition often results from wearing ill-fitting shoes, muscle imbalances, or arthritis, and can lead to pain, corns, and difficulty walking if left untreated.

In this article brought to you by Mountain Spring Podiatry, we introduce you to this common condition and review the treatment options. If you’d rather consult with a licensed foot doctor, then call the licensed professionals at Mountain Spring Podiatry.

What are hammertoes?

Hammertoes are due to an imbalance in the muscles, tendons, or ligaments that control the toe’s movement. This imbalance forces the toe to bend at the middle joint, creating a hammer-like appearance. Hammertoes can affect any of the smaller toes but most commonly impact the second toe.

There are two main types of hammertoes. In the early stage, flexible hammertoe is moveable at the joint. Over time, the tendons tighten, and the joint becomes immobile, making the condition more severe and painful. We call this rigid hammertoe.

What causes hammertoes?

Several factors contribute to the development of hammertoes. There is a genetic factor: You may inherit a tendency to develop hammertoes due to the shape or structure of your feet.

Further, conditions that cause muscle imbalance, such as arthritis, can lead to the development of hammertoes. Diseases that affect the nerves and muscles, like Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, can also cause hammertoes.

Your shoes also have an impact. Wearing shoes that are too tight, too narrow, or have high heels forces the toes into a cramped position. Trauma to the toe, such as stubbing or breaking, can also result in hammertoes.

How do I know if I have hammertoes?

A visual inspection is typically enough to determine whether you’ve got hammertoe. Watch out for:

  • A bent or curled toe at the middle joint.
  • Pain or irritation when wearing shoes.
  • Corns or calluses on the top of the toe joint or on the tip of the toe.
  • Restricted or painful movement of the toe joint.

Recognizing the symptoms of hammertoes early can help you seek treatment before the condition worsens.

Treatment options for hammertoes.

In order to effectively treat hammertoes, licensed foot specialists must understand the severity and underlying causes. With that said, there are several treatment options. Let’s start with the conservative measures:

  • Start by choosing shoes with a wide toe box, low heels, and good arch support. Avoid shoes that are too tight or have pointed toes.
  • A dependable podiatrist can order custom orthotics. Custom orthotic devices can provide support and help correct muscle imbalances.
  • Use non-medicated padding to protect the toe from friction and reduce pain. Taping the toe can help it maintain a normal position and prevent further deformity.
  • Perform exercises to strengthen and stretch the muscles in your toes. Common exercises include picking up marbles with your toes, stretching your toes manually, and using a towel to stretch the toe muscles.

For severe cases that conservative treatment cannot relieve, a surgical intervention may be necessary. Some surgical options include tendon release, joint resection, and fusion.

Consult with a licensed podiatrist

Whether you need routine foot care or are concerned about a more severe condition, the licensed podiatrists at Mountain Spring Podiatry are ready to help. Call or message us today to get in touch!