Hammertoes

Hammertoe is a condition in which one or both joints in the little toes bend into claw-like positions. Oftentimes, this diagnosis accompanies a bunion diagnosis, where the big toe slants toward and under the second toe. Painful corns or calluses can develop on the top or bottom of the toe from the abnormal friction from a shoe or sock.

Hammertoes are a result of a muscle/tendon imbalance, within the foot. This imbalance is due to natural changes within the foot that gradually occur over time, and leads to the classic bent toe appearance of a hammertoe. 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.

Symptoms

  • Pain or irritation of the affected toe when wearing shoes.
  • Corns and calluses (a buildup of skin) on the toe, between two toes, or on the ball of the foot. Corns are caused by constant friction against the shoe. They may be soft or hard, depending upon their location.
  • Inflammation, redness, or a burning sensation.
  • Contracture of the toe.
  • Open sores may form, in severe cases.

Treatment

NonSurgical:

Changing shoes- Avoid shoes with pointed, slim, or short toe boxes (high heels included). Opt for a pair with a deep, roomy toe box and heels no higher than 2”.

  • Injection Therapy- Corticosteroid injections are sometimes used to ease pain and inflammation caused by the hammertoe.
  • Medications- Oral NSAIDs, like ibuprofen, may help to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Orthotic Devices- A custom molded orthotic device may help control the muscle/tendon imbalance.
  • Padding- Use pads to avoid blisters, corns or calluses.
  • Splinting/Strapping- Splints or small straps may be applied by the surgeon to realign the bent toe.

Surgical:

A surgical procedure may be necessary if the site has become rigid, painful, developed an open sore, or is affecting the severity of additional foot deformities. Sometimes a flexor tenotomy will solve the problem, while more severe cases might require a joint fusion. Both procedures will help to align the toes in a more naturally laying way.