Patient Education

Hammertoe


What Is Hammertoe?
Hammertoe is a contracture (bending) of one or both joints of the second, third, fourth, or fifth (little) toes. This abnormal bending can put pressure on the toe causing problems to develop. These problems can be painful and include difficulty wearing shoes, pain when walking, and calluses on the toes and on the bottom of the feet. Hammertoes usually start out as mild deformities and get progressively worse over time. Because of the progressive nature of hammertoes, a person with this condition should receive early attention. Hammertoes do not get better without some kind of intervention.

Causes
The most common cause of hammertoe is a muscle/tendon imbalance which causes the toe to bend or contract. This condition, if left untreated, will get worse over time. Hammertoes may be aggravated by shoes that don't fit properly. For some people hammertoes are inherited. Occasionally, a hammertoe is the result of an earlier trauma to the toe.

Symptoms
Common symptoms of hammertoes include:

  • Contracture/bending of the toe or toes
  • Pain or irritation of the affected toe(s) when wearing shoes.
  • Inflammation, redness, or a burning sensation of the toe(s)
  • Corns and calluses (a buildup of skin) on the toe, between two toes, or on the ball of the foot. In more severe cases of hammertoe, open sores may form.

Treatment for Hammertoes
The treatment you and your podiatrist select will depend upon the severity of your hammertoe and other factors.

Non-surgical Treatment
There is a variety of conservative treatment options for hammertoes including padding, lotions, changes in shoe gear, orthotic devices, injection therapy, medications, splinting and strapping. Of note, if you try over-the-counter pads, avoid the medicated types because they contain a small amount of acid which can be harmful.

Surgical Treatment
There are many forms of surgical treatment, mostly aimed at straightening the toe. The length of the recovery period will vary depending on the procedure or procedures performed. In selecting the procedure or combination of procedures for your particular case, your podiatrist will take into consideration the extent of your deformity, the number of toes involved, your age, your activity level, and other factors.