The term hammertoes
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 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.
While there are a number of causes, there aren't many specific risk factors for hammertoes
tend to get these problems more than men, but they occur without rhyme or reason. Diabetics, however, are more likely to get a hammertoe if they have underlying nerve damage in the toes and
People with a hammer toe will often find that a corn or callus will develop on the top of the toe, where it rubs against the top of the footwear. This can be painful when pressure is applied or when
anything rubs on it. The affected joint may also be painful and appear swollen.
The earlier a hammertoe is diagnosed, the better the prognosis and treatment options. Your doctor will be able to diagnose your hammertoe with a simple examination of the foot and your footwear. He
or she may take an x-ray to check the severity of the condition. You may also be asked about your symptoms, your normal daily activities, and your medical and family history.
Non Surgical Treatment
If you have hammer toe, avoiding tight shoes and high heels may provide relief. Initial (non-surgical) treatment for hammer toe involves wearing shoes with plenty of room in the toe area. Shoes
should be at least one-half inch longer than the longest toe. Stretching and strengthening exercises for the toes (such as picking up items with the toes or stretching the toes by hand) are also
recommended. Sometimes orthopedists recommend special pads, cushions, or slings to help relieve the pain of hammer toe.
If your toe is not bendable, your doctor may recommend surgery. The type of surgery that will be performed will depend on the severity of the condition. You should expect blood and urine studies
before the procedure, as well as x-rays of your feet. Your doctor will inject either a local or regional anesthetic. If your toe has some flexibility, the doctor may be able to straighten it by
simply making an incision in the toe to release or lengthen the tendon. If the toe is not flexible, your doctor will probably make the same incision to release the tendon, but he or she may also
remove some pieces of the bone so that the bone can be straightened. A k-wire is placed in the toe to help hold it straight while it is healing. This is taken out after about four weeks.
As long as hammertoe causes no pain or any change in your walking or running gait, it isn?t harmful and doesn't require treatment. The key to prevention is to wear shoes that fit you properly and
provide plenty of room for your toes.