is the result of deformed toe joints, tight tendons that attach to the toe, and misaligned toe bones. The usual
appearance of a hammertoe is a toe bent upward at the middle toe joint, so that the top of this joint rubs against the top of the shoe. The remainder of the toe is bent downward so that, instead of
the entire toe bearing weight, only the tip of the toe bears weight. Pain can occur on the top of the toe, the tip of the toe, or in both areas.
Medical problems, such as stroke or diabetes that affect the nerves, may also lead to hammertoe. For example, diabetes can result in poor circulation, especially in the feet. As a result, the person
may not feel that their toes are bent into unnatural positions. The likelihood of developing hammertoe increases with age and may be affected by gender (more common in women) and toe length; for
example, when the second toe is longer than the big toe, hammertoe is hammertoe
more likely to occur.
Hammertoe may also be present at birth. Genetics may factor in to developing hammertoe, particularly if the foot is flat or has a high arch, resulting in instability.
The symptoms of hammertoe include a curling toe, pain or discomfort in the toes and ball of the foot or the front of the leg, especially when toes are stretched downward. Thickening of the skin above
or below the affected toe with the formation of corns or calluses. Difficulty finding shoes that fit well. In its early stages, hammertoe is not obvious. Frequently, hammertoe does not cause any
symptoms except for the claw-like toe shape.
First push up on the bottom of the metatarsal head associated with the affected toe and see if the toe straightens out. If it does, then an orthotic could correct the problem, usually with a
metatarsal pad. If the toe does not straighten out when the metatarsal head is pushed up, then that indicates that contracture in the capsule and ligaments (capsule contracts because the joint was in
the wrong position for too long) of the MTP joint has set in and surgery is required. Orthotics are generally required post-surgically.
Non Surgical Treatment
If your toe is still flexible, your doctor may recommend that you change to roomier and more comfortable footwear and that you wear shoe inserts (orthotics) or pads. Wearing inserts or pads can
reposition your toe and relieve pressure and pain. In addition, your doctor may suggest exercises to stretch and strengthen your toe muscles. These may include picking up marbles or a thin towel off
the floor with your toes.
Sometimes when the joints are removed the two bones become one as they are fused in a straightened position. Many times one toe will be longer than another and a piece of bone is removed to bring the
toes in a more normal length in relation to each other. Sometimes tendons will be lengthened, or soft tissue around the joints will be cut or rebalanced to fix the deformity. Angular corrections may
also be needed. The surgeon may place fixation in your foot as it heals which may include a pin, or wires.