What Are Hammertoes?

Hammertoes are painful deformities that frequently form on the second, third, or fourth toe. The condition is often caused by an issue in foot mechanics. This can be caused by the person’s specific gait or the manner in which they walk, or by shoes that do not comfortably fit the deformity.  Hammertoes can be formed after wearing shoes that are too narrow or short for the foot or have excessively high heels. Shoes that are not properly sized will force the toes into a bent position for long periods of time. This can cause the muscles to shorten and toes to bend into the deformity of a hammertoe.

Hammertoe can also be caused by complications from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, trauma to the foot, heredity, or a cerebral vascular accident. Pain and difficult mobility of the toes, deformities, calluses, and corns are all symptoms of a hammertoe.

Someone who suspects they have the symptoms of a hammertoe should consult with a physician—particularly a podiatrist. Podiatrists diagnose and treat complications of the foot and ankle. If the podiatrist discovers that the affected toes are still flexible, treatment for the hammertoe may simply involve exercise, physical therapy, and better-fitting shoes. Treatment for hammertoes typically involves controlling foot mechanics, such as walking, through the use of customized orthotics.

For more serious cases in which the toes have become inflexible and rigid, surgery may be suggested. During the operation, the toe would receive an incision to relieve pressure on the tendons. A re-alignment of the tendons may then be performed by removing small pieces of bone to straighten the toe. In some cases, the insertion of pins is needed to keep the bones in the proper position as the toe heals. The patient is usually allowed to return home on the same day as the surgery.

If surgery is performed to repair a hammertoe, following the postoperative directions of your doctor is essential. Directions may include several stretches, picking up marbles with your toes, or attempting to crumple a towel placed flat against your feet. Wear shoes that have low heels and a wide amount of toe space to maintain comfort. Closed-toe shoes and high heels should be avoided. Shoes with laces allow the wearer to adjust how fitted he or she may want the shoes to be and also allow for greater comfort. To provide adequate space for your toes, select shoes that have a minimum of one-half inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the inside of the shoe. This will also relieve pressure on your toes and prevent future hammertoes from forming.

Other preventative measures that can be taken include going shopping for new shoes in the middle of the day. Your feet are its smallest in the morning and swell as the day progresses. Trying on and purchasing new shoes midday will give you the most reliable size. Be sure to check that the shoes you purchase are both the same size. If possible, ask the store to stretch out the shoes at its painful points to allow for optimum comfort.  

You Might Also Enjoy...

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which there is a compression of the posterior tibial nerve. The posterior tibial nerve runs along the inside of the ankle into the foot. Tarsal tunnel syndrome is named for the tarsal tunnel, which is a thin space a

Heel Spurs

Heel spurs are the result of calcium deposits that cause bony protrusions on the underside of the heel. Heel spurs are usually painless, but they have the potential to cause heel pain. Heel spurs tend to be associated with plantar fasciitis, which is a con

Wound Care

Diabetics must be wary of all wounds, regardless of depth or size. Diabetes, a chronic disease in which the body cannot properly use glucose the way it normally would, causes various complications that make wounds difficult to heal. Nerve damage or neuropa

Solutions for Cracked Heels

Cracked heels can make life very frustrating and embarrassing when displaying the bare feet. Aside from being unpleasing to the eye, they can also tear stockings and socks and wear out shoes at a faster rate. When severe, cracked heels may cause pain or i

Causes of Cracked Heels

A condition referred to as cracked heels is often uncomfortable and may produce severe pain. It is a common foot ailment that many people experience. Cracked heels occur when the skin on the back of the heel becomes dry, possibly be due to a lack of moistu

Flat Feet

Flatfoot is a foot condition in which the arch of the foot has either partially or totally dropped or has never developed. While it is common in babies and small children, it can become a problem for them in adulthood if the arch never forms. For adults, t