A Hammer toes
or contracted toe is a deformity of the proximal interphalangeal joint of the second,
third, or fourth toe causing it to be permanently bent, resembling a hammer. Mallet toe is a similar condition affecting the distal interphalangeal joint. Claw toe is another similar condition, with
dorsiflexion of the proximal phalanx on the lesser metatarsophalangeal joint, combined with flexion of both the proximal and distal interphalangeal joints. Claw toe can affect the second, third,
fourth, or fifth toes.
While most cases of hammertoes are caused by an underying muscle imbalance, it may develop as a result of several different causes, including arthritis, a hereditary condition, an injury, or
ill-fitting shoes. In some cases, patients develop hammertoes after wearing shoes or stockings that are too tight for long periods of time. These patients usually develop hammertoes in both
Symptoms may include pain in the affected toe or toes when you wear shoes, making it hard or painful to walk. A corn or callus on the top of the joint caused by rubbing against Hammer toes
the shoe. Swelling and redness of the skin over the joint. Trouble
finding comfortable shoes.
Although hammertoes are readily apparent, to arrive at a diagnosis the foot and ankle surgeon will obtain a thorough history of your symptoms and examine your foot. During the physical examination,
the doctor may attempt to reproduce your symptoms by manipulating your foot and will study the contractures of the toes. In addition, the foot and ankle surgeon may take x-rays to determine the
degree of the deformities and assess any changes that may have occurred.
Non Surgical Treatment
Non-surgical methods for hammer toes (claw toes) are aimed at decreasing symptoms (i.e., pain and/or calluses) and/or limiting the progression into a larger problem. Simple treatments patients can do
are wear supportive shoes. Use an arch support. Wear shoes with a wide toe box. Modify activities. Spot stretch shoes. Periodic callus care.
In some cases, usually when the hammertoe has become more rigid and painful, or when an open sore has developed, surgery is needed. Often patients with hammertoe have bunions or other foot
deformities corrected at the same time. In selecting the procedure or combination of procedures for your particular case, the foot and ankle surgeon will take into consideration the extent of your
deformity, the number of toes involved, your age, your activity level, and other factors. The length of the recovery period will vary, depending on the procedure or procedures performed.
The best treatment is good prevention! Hammertoe can be prevented by wearing shoes with ample toe room, avoiding high heels, and wearing adjustable shoes to assure a looser fit. When buying shoes,
shop at the end of the day when your feet are swollen from daily activity, try both shoes on to confirm they fit properly, and if necessary, visit a shoe repair store to see if they can stretch your
shoes for a better fit.