A Hammer toes
is a deformity of the second, third or fourth toes in which the main toe joint is bent upward like a claw.
Initially, hammertoes are flexible and can be corrected with simple measures. Left untreated, they can become fixed and require surgery. Hammertoe results from shoes that don?t fit properly or a
muscle imbalance, usually in combination with one or more other factors. Muscles work in pairs to straighten and bend the toes. If the toe is bent and held in one position long enough, the muscles
tighten and can?t stretch out.
Hammertoes are most common in women, and a big part of this is poor shoe choices, which are a big factor in the development of many foot problems. Tight toe boxes and high heels are the biggest
culprits. Genetics certainly plays a role in some cases of hammertoes, as does trauma, infection, arthritis, and certain neurological and muscle disorders. But most cases of contracted toes are
associated with various biomechanical abnormalities in how a patient walks. This causes the muscles and tendons to be used excessively or improperly, which deforms the toes over time.
Symptoms may include pain in the affected toe or toes when you wear shoes, making it hard or painful to walk. A corn or callus on the top of the joint caused by rubbing against the shoe. Swelling and
redness of the skin over the joint. Trouble finding comfortable shoes.
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
Non Surgical Treatment
Symptomatic treatment of hammertoes consists of such things as open toed shoes or hammertoe pads. There are over the counter corn removers for temporally reducing the painful callous often seen with
the hammertoe. These medications must be used with caution. They are a mild acid that burns the callous off. These medications should never be used for corns or callouses between the toes. Persons
with diabetes or bad circulation should never use these products.
For the surgical correction of a rigid hammertoe, the surgical procedure consists of removing the damaged skin where the corn is located. Then a small section of bone is removed at the level of the
rigid joint. The sutures remain in place for approximately ten days. During this period of time it is important to keep the area dry. Most surgeons prefer to leave the bandage in place until the
patient's follow-up visit, so there is no need for the patient to change the bandages at home. The patient is returned to a stiff-soled walking shoe in about two weeks. It is important to try and
stay off the foot as much as possible during this time. Excessive swelling of the toe is the most common patient complaint. In severe cases of hammertoe deformity a pin may be required to hold the
toe in place and the surgeon may elect to fuse the bones in the toe. This requires several weeks of recovery.