A hammer toe or contracted toe is a deformity of the muscles and ligaments of the proximal interphalangeal joint of the second, third, or fourth toe causing it to be bent, resembling a hammer. In the early stage a flexible hammertoe is movable at the joints; a rigid hammertoe joint can’t be moved and usually requires surgery.
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.
Signs and symptoms:
A hammer toe causes you discomfort when you walk. It can also cause you pain when you try to stretch or move the affected toe or those around it. Hammer toe symptoms may be mild or severe.
*A toe that bends downward
*Corns or calluses
*Inability to flex your foot or wiggle your toes
Woman soothing her feet after wearing high heels
Wearing high heels can cause hammertoe.
Hammer toe occurs from an imbalance in the muscles surrounding the middle toe joint. These muscles, tendons, and ligaments work together to bend and straighten the toes.
If one of the muscles weakens, it cannot bend or straighten the toe. If the toe stays bent long enough, the muscles tighten and the toe will not be able to straighten out.
These muscle weaknesses and imbalances are caused by a variety of factors. Because some of the causes for hammer toe are avoidable, it is possible to minimize risk of developing hammer toe.
Causes of hammer toe include the following:
*Certain shoes – wearing high heels or shoes that are too tight through the box can force toes into a flexed position. When worn repeatedly, the toes may not be able to straighten, even when barefoot.
*Sex – women are more likely to develop hammer toe than men.
*Injuries – When a toe is broken, stubbed, or jammed, it may be more likely to develop hammer toe.
*Age – risk increases with age.
*Toe length – if the second toe is longer than the big toe, hammer toe is more likely to occur.
*Certain diseases – people suffering from conditions like arthritis or diabetes are more likely to develop foot problems, including hammer toe
*Genetics – sometimes, hammer toe is hereditary and may run in families.
Due to footwear styles, women are more likely than men to develop hammer toe. The risk of hammer toe also rises with age.
A doctor can usually diagnose a hammer toe during a physical exam. Imaging tests, such as X-rays, may be necessary if you’ve had a bone, muscle, or ligament injury in your toe.
The severity of your condition determines the treatment options for a hammer toe.
Treatment for a mild hammer toe:
You can correct a hammer toe caused by inappropriate footwear by wearing properly fitting shoes. If a high arch caused the condition, wearing toe pads or insoles in your shoes can help. These pads work by shifting your toe’s position, which relieves pain and corrects the appearance of your toe.
Shop for shoe insoles.:
You can usually use over-the-counter (OTC) cushions, pads, or medications to treat bunions and corns. However, if they’re painful or if they cause your toes to become deformed, your doctor may opt to surgically remove them.
Don’t pop any blisters on your toes. Popping blisters can cause pain and infection. Use OTC creams and cushions to relieve pain and keep blisters from rubbing against the inside of your shoes.
Gently stretching your toes can also help relieve pain and reposition the affected toe.
Treatment for a severe hammer toe:
If you’re unable to flex your toe, surgery is the only option to restore movement. Surgery can reposition the toe, remove deformed or injured bone, and realign your tendons and joints. Surgery is normally done on an outpatient basis, so you can return home on the day of your surgery.
After treating the cause of your hammer toe, it usually goes away without complications. However, waiting too long to seek treatment can cause your surrounding toes to become deformed as the hammer toe forces them out of position. It’s best to get treatment as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed.
Hammer toe, like many other foot problems, can be avoided with wearing proper footwear. Proper footwear should have the following:
Low heels – higher heels force the feet into unnatural positions and often bend the toes.
Enough toe room – shoes should be properly sized and pointy-toed shoes should be avoided. Shoes should accommodate for the longest toe, which may not always be the big toe.
Adjustability – shoes with adjustable laces and straps are best.
Proper arch support – arch support prevents a number of foot ailments.
Hammer toe can be treated and prevented with simple exercises and footwear changes. However, if the toe becomes rigid, surgery may be needed to relieve the hammer toe.
Even after treatment, hammer toe may return. The best way to make sure that hammer toe does not reoccur is through choosing proper footwear.
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.