is a deformity of the middle joint of a toe, producing a clenched, clawlike
appearance in the affected digit. The tendons in the toe become abnormally contracted, causing the toe Hammer toe
to bend downward, which, in turn, forces the joint to protrude
upward. A mallet toe is a deformity in which the end joint of a toe becomes bent downward, so that the toe curls underneath itself. In either case the affected joints are stiff, and often the toe
cannot be straightened out. Constant rubbing against shoes may furthermore cause a painful corn (a round patch of rough, thickened, calloused skin) to develop over the joint or at the tip of the
affected toe. Hammer and mallet toes may occur in any toe, although the second toe is the most common site. These deformities are often painful and limit the toe?s range of motion-sometimes requiring
This condition is greatly influenced by the footwear we choose. Ladies who wear high heels are a perfect example. High heels force the toes to overlap and bend at the middle joint of the toe,
resulting in hammertoe. But high heels are not the only culprits. Anyone who wears shoes that are too tight is increasing their risk of developing hammertoe. This progressive condition, which will
only get better with treatment, can cause pain as the toes are forced to bend unnaturally.
A hammertoe may be present but not always painful unless irritated by shoes. One may have enlarged toe joints with some thickened skin and no redness or swelling. However, if shoes create pressure on
the joint, the pain will usually range from pinching and squeezing to sharp and burning. In long standing conditions, the dislocated joints can cause the pain of arthritis.
Hammertoes are progressive, they don?t go away by themselves and usually they will get worse over time. However, not all cases are alike, some hammertoes progress more rapidly than others. Once your
foot and ankle surgeon has evaluated your hammertoes, a treatment plan can be developed that is suited to your needs.
Non Surgical Treatment
Hammertoes that are not painful (asymptomatic) and still flexible may not require treatment. In mild cases, open-toed, low-heeled, or wider shoes and foam or moleskin pads can provide symptomatic
relief by reducing pressure. Taping (strapping) the affected toe can help to reduce deformity and pain. Physical therapy to instruct patients in exercises that passively stretch tight structures and
strengthen weak foot intrinsic muscles is also helpful with mild cases. Periodic trimming (debridement) of corns (clavi, helomata) by a podiatrist can provide temporary relief. Corticosteroid
injections are often very effective in reducing pain.
If these treatments are not sufficient at correcting the hammer toe, an operation to straighten the toe may be necessary. This is often performed in conjunction with surgery for a bunion deformity.
The surgical treatment of a hammer toe can consist of either cutting the tendons to relieve the pressure that causes the deformity, or fusing the toe so that it points straight permanently.
Hammertoe can usually be prevented by wearing shoes that fit properly and give the toes plenty of room. Don?t wear shoes with pointed or narrow toes. Don?t wear shoes that are too tight or short.
Don?t wear high-heeled shoes, which can force the toes forward. Choose shoes with wide or boxy toes. Choose shoes that are a half-inch longer than your longest toe. If shoes hurt, don?t wear them.