The term Hammer toes
describes three unique contracture deformities of the
toes. The deformities differ by the location of contracture in each joint of the toe. The three deformities include hammer toe, claw toe and mallet toe. Hammer toes may be flexible or rigid. Hammer
toes are most common on the lesser toes (2-5) and may affect one or more toes simultaneously. Hallux malleus is the term used to described a hammer toe of the great toe. Hallux malleus is often found
as an hammertoes
isolated foot problem. Hammer toes are found equally in men and women. The onset of
hammer toes is between the ages of 30 and 80 years of age.
Essentially, hammertoes are caused by an abnormal interworking of the bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons that comprise your feet. When muscles fail to work in a balanced manner, the toe joints can
bend to form the hammertoe shape. If they remain in this position for an extended period, the muscles and tendons supporting them tighten and remain in that position. A common factor in development
of hammertoe is wearing shoes that squeeze the toes or high heels that jam the toes into the front of the shoe. Most likely due to these factors, hammertoe occurs much more frequently in women than
A soft corn, or heloma molle, may exist in the web space between toes. This is more commonly caused by an exostosis, which is basically an extra growth of bone possibly due to your foot structure. As
this outgrowth of excessive bone rubs against other toes, there is friction between the toes and a corn forms for your protection.
Your healthcare provider will examine your foot, checking for redness, swelling, corns, and calluses. Your provider will also measure the flexibility of your toes and test how much feeling you have
in your toes. You may have blood tests to check for arthritis, diabetes, and infection.
Non Surgical Treatment
A number of approaches can be undertaken to the manage a hammer toe. It is important that any footwear advice is followed. The correct amount of space in the toe box will allow room for the toes to
function without excessive pressure. If a corn is present, this will need to be treated. If the toe is still flexible, it may be possible to use splints or tape to try and correct the toe. Without
correct fitting footwear, this is often unsuccessful. Padding is often used to get pressure off the toe to help the symptoms. If conservative treatment is unsuccessful at helping the symptoms,
surgery is often a good option.
Toe Relocation procedures are ancillary procedures that are performed in conjunction with one of the two methods listed about (joint resection or joint mending). When the toe is deformed (buckled) at
the ball of the foot, then this joint often needs to be re-positioned along with ligament releases/repair to get the toe straight. A temporary surgical rod is needed to hold the toe aligned while the
Prevention of a hammertoe can be difficult as symptoms do not arise until the problem exists. Wearing shoes that have extra room in the toes may eliminate the problem or slow down the deformity from
getting worse. Sometimes surgery is recommended for the condition. If the area is irritated with redness, swelling, and pain some ice and anti-inflammatory medications may be helpful. The best
prevention may be to get advice from your podiatrist.