WHAT IS A HAMMER TOE?
A hammertoe is an abnormal bending of the second, third, or fourth toes. This is a mild deformity that can get progressively worse. In the beginning, hammertoes are flexible and can be corrected with noninvasive, simple measures. The abnormal bending can put painful pressure on the toe when wearing shoes and if untreated, hammertoes may require surgery because they stop responding to non-surgical treatments.
WHAT CAUSES HAMMER TOE?
Hammer toe is most often caused by wearing shoes that do not fit correctly combined with other factors such as muscle/tendon imbalance, age, foot structure, etc. Hammertoes can be genetic and may form from trauma to the toe.
DIAGNOSING AND TREATING HAMMER TOE
To properly diagnose hammer toe a podiatrist may examine your foot, get a history, manipulate your foot to understand symptoms, and possibly order X-rays. Hammertoes progressively become worse if not treated. They will not go away by themselves. There are several non-surgical treatment options available including:
- Changing your shoes – You should avoid high heels, shoes with narrow, pointed toes, and shoes that are too small.
- Injections – Steroid injections are an option to help decrease the pain and inflammation caused by hammertoe.
- Medications – Your podiatrist may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, to control pain and inflammation.
- Orthotic Devices – Custom orthotics may be used in your shoe to help with muscle/tendon imbalance.
- Exercises – A doctor may prescribe exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles.
- Surgery – Surgery is rarely required and only used if other non-surgical treatments work. Hammertoe surgery is typically an outpatient procedure with local anesthetic.