affects both joints of a toe, causing the toe to bend upwards at the proximal joint (the joint closest to the foot) and down at
the distal joint (the one farthest away from the foot). The resulting unnatural bend is often compared to an upside down "V" and also to a hammer or a claw (The condition is sometimes referred to as
clawtoe or clawfoot). A similar condition, in which the first joint of a toe simply bends downward, is called mallet toe. Since the arched bending of hammertoe often causes the toe to rub hammertoes
against the top of the shoe's toe box and against the sole, painful corns
and calluses develop on the toes. Hammertoe can also be a result of squeezing within a too-small or ill-fitting shoe or wearing high heels that jam your toes into a tight toe box inside your shoe,
arthritis, trauma and muscle and nerve damage from diseases such as diabetes. Probably because of the tight-shoe and high-heel shoe factors, hammertoe tends to occur far more often in women than in
But what causes the imbalance of the tendons and muscles in the first place so that they begin to pull and bend the joint? A bad fitting shoe could be the cause but it usually isn?t the primary
cause. Many people are genetically predisposed to hammertoe, and the condition begins to progress more quickly when they wear shoes that fit poorly, for example pointy toes, high heels, or shoes that
are too short. Hammertoe may also be caused by damage to the joint as a result of trauma.
The symptoms of a hammer toe are usually first noticed when a corn develops on the top of the toe and becomes painful, usually when wearing tight shoes. There may be a bursa under the corn or instead
of a corn, depending on the pressure. Most of the symptoms are due to pressure from footwear on the toe. There may be a callus under the metatarsal head at the base of the toe. Initially a hammer toe
is usually flexible, but when longstanding it becomes more rigid.
Hammer toes may be easily detected through observation. The malformation of the person's toes begin as mild distortions, yet may worsen over time - especially if the factors causing the hammer toes
are not eased or removed. If the condition is paid attention to early enough, the person's toes may not be permanently damaged and may be treated without having to receive surgical intervention. If
the person's toes remain untreated for too long, however the muscles within the toes might stiffen even more and will require invasive procedures to correct the deformity.
Non Surgical Treatment
If the affected toe is still flexible, you may be able to treat it by taping or splinting the toe to hold it straight. Your family doctor can show you how to do this. You may also try corrective
footwear, corn pads and other devices to reduce pain. You may need to do certain exercises to keep your toe joints flexible. For example, you may need to move and stretch your toe gently with your
hands. You can also exercise by picking things up with your toes. Small or soft objects, such as marbles or towels, work best. If your hammer toe becomes painful, you may need to apply an ice pack
several times a day. This can help relieve the soreness and swelling. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (also called NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (two brand names: Advil, Motrin) or naproxen
(one brand name: Aleve), may be helpful. If your pain and swelling are severe, your doctor may need to give you a steroid injection in the toe joint.
Surgery may be the treatment of choice if conservative approaches prove unsuccessful. Usually performed as an outpatient procedure, the specific surgery will depend on the type and extent of injury
to the toe. Recovery my take several days or weeks and you may experience some redness, stiffness and swelling of the affected toe. Your physician will recommend taking it easy and to keep your foot
elevated while you recover.