What Are Hammertoes?

The podiatrists at Ryan Foot and Ankle frequently treat a painful condition known as hammertoes. This deformity is caused by an imbalance in the ligament, muscle, or tendon causing the toe or toes to contract at the middle joint. If the bend occurs at the joint closest to the nail, it is called mallet toe. The second, third and fourth toes are the most likely to develop these conditions.

Contributing factors to the development of hammertoes include: bunions, foot structure, ill-fitting shoes, trauma, diabetes, arthritis, and heredity. Women are more likely to develop hammertoes and the risk increases with age.

Hammertoes during the early stages will still be flexible, but as the condition progresses the toe or toes become rigid. Friction may cause corns to develop on the top and sides of the affected toe, while calluses may form on the ball of the foot and bottom of the toe. Wearing shoes may cause irritation to the joint, corns, calluses, and make physical activity and walking very painful. In some cases, the pressure from the shoe can even cause dislocation of the joint. Hammertoes do not go away on their own and when left untreated for too long, are resistant to non-surgical treatment.

How Are Hammertoes Treated?

Ryan Foot and Ankle Clinic will examine the affected toes to diagnose hammertoe. Unless your symptoms are severe, your podiatric foot and ankle surgeon will recommend a non-surgical course of treatment, including some or all of the following measures:

  • Your podiatric surgeon may trim corns and calluses. You run the risk of cuts and infection if you try to do this yourself.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed.
  • Custom orthotics or inserts may be used to control the ligament or tendon imbalance.
  • Corticosteroid injections may be used to reduce inflammation and ease pain.
  • The bent toe may be realigned by your podiatrist using straps or splints.
  • Specially designed pads or cushions may be used to prevent irritation and friction.
  • In addition, you doctor may recommend a change in the shoes you wear. Heel heels, pointy-toed shoes and tight fitting shoes contribute to hammertoes.

What To Expect If Surgery Is Recommended?

Severe cases where the hammertoe has become rigid will require surgery to correct the deformity and relieve pain and discomfort. caused by the deformity. Your podiatric surgeon will discuss the options and select a plan tailored to your needs. Among other concerns, he or she will take into consideration the type of shoes you want to wear, the number of toes involved, your activity level, your age, and the severity of the hammertoe.

Arthroplasty is the most common surgical procedure. A small section of bone is removed from the affective joints.

When rigidity is severe or multiple joints are involved, a small joint of the toe may be fused to straighten it. This procedure also utilizes a pin or device to hold the toe in the correct position during healing.

Other surgical procedures used to correct hammertoe include joint relocation, tendon transfers and the removal of wedges of skin. If you have bunions or other foot deformities, your surgeon will usually address everything at the same time. The procedure or procedures performed will determine the length of recovery time.

If hammertoes are causing you discomfort or pain, give us a call at one of our 5 local podiatry offices in Charlotte, Concord and Harrisburg today for more information or to schedule an appointment.