(hammertoe) is a deformity of the second, third, or fourth toes. In this condition, the toe is
bent at the middle joint, into an upward position, causing it to resemble a hammer (sometimes decribed as ?curled toes?). Left untreated, hammer toes can become inflexible and require surgery. Toes
which take on a curled appearance are hammer toes. Mallet toe is a similar condition, but affects the upper joint of a toe.
People who are born with long bones in their toes are more likely to develop hammer toe. Children who wear shoes they have outgrown may develop this condition. People who wear very narrow shoes or
high-heeled shoes are also more likely to develop a hammer toe. Sometimes, pressure from a bunion can cause hammer toe. Rheumatoid arthritis is another a risk factor.
People who have painful hammertoes visit their podiatrist because their affected toe is either rubbing on the end their shoe (signaling a contracted flexor tendon), rubbing on the top of their shoe
(signaling a contracted extensor tendon), or rubbing on another toe and causing a painful buildup of thick skin, known as a corn.
The exam may reveal a toe in which the near bone of the toe (proximal phalanx) is angled upward and the middle bone of the toe points in the opposite direction (plantar flexed). Toes may appear
crooked or rotated. The involved joint may be painful when moved, or stiff. There may be areas of thickened skin (corns or calluses) on top of or between the toes, a callus may also be observed at
the tip of the affected toe beneath the toenail. An attempt to passively correct the deformity will help elucidate the best treatment option as the examiner determines whether the toe is still
flexible or not. It is advisable to assess palpable pulses, since their presence is associated with a good prognosis for healing after surgery. X-rays will demonstrate the contractures of the
involved joints, as well as possible arthritic changes and bone enlargements (exostoses, spurs). X-rays of the involved foot are usually performed in a weight-bearing position.
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 hammertoes
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.
For severe hammer toe, you will need an operation to straighten the joint. The surgery often involves cutting or moving tendons and ligaments. Sometimes the bones on each side of the joint need to be
connected (fused) together. Most of the time, you will go home on the same day as the surgery. The toe may still be stiff afterward, and it may be shorter. If the condition is treated early, you can
often avoid surgery. Treatment will reduce pain and walking difficulty.
Be good to your feet, because they carry you. They are designed to last a lifetime, but that doesn?t mean they don?t need some love and care as well as some basic maintenance. Check your feet
regularly for problems. This is especially true if you have diabetes or any other medical condition that causes poor circulation or numbness in your toes. If you do, check your feet every day so
problems can be caught early on. Good circulation is essential. When you're sitting down, put your feet up. If you've been sitting for a while, stretch your legs and feet. Give yourself a foot
massage, or ask someone you love for a foot massage. A warm foot bath is also a good idea.