is a condition which causes one or more of the smaller toes to become bent
upwards. The toe can be straightened but if ignored may become a permanent deformity. Each of the 4 smaller toes consist of 3 bones called phalanges, forming two interphalangeal joints. The toe bends
at the proximal or first interphalangeal joint. Initially it can be straightened, but if left untreated, this can become a permanent deformity.
Footwear is actually the leading cause of this type of toe deformity so much so that people sometimes require hammer toe surgery to undo some of the damage. The most common problem is wearing shoes
that are too short, too narrow or too tight. These shoes constricts the feet and force the toes into a bend position. Women are more at risk especially due to high heels. Footwear isn?t the only
problem, poor foot posture can lead to muscle and even bone imbalances. This asymmetry can cause excessive strain on the toes either by forcing the toe into unnatural positions. Arthritis can also
play a factor in the development of hammer toe, especially if the toe joint is stiff and incapable of a full range of motion.
Hammer, claw, and mallet toes can cause discomfort and pain and may make it hard to walk. Shoes may rub on your toes, causing pain, blisters, calluses or corns, or sores. Sores can become infected
and lead to cellulitis or osteomyelitis, especially if you have diabetes or peripheral arterial disease. If you have one of these health problems and sores develop, contact your doctor.
The exam may reveal a toe in which the near bone of the toe (proximal phalanx) is angled upward and the middle bone of the toe points in the opposite direction (plantar flexed). Toes may appear
crooked or rotated. The involved joint may be painful when moved, or stiff. There may be Hammer toe
thickened skin (corns or calluses) on top of or between the toes, a callus may also be observed at the tip of the affected toe beneath the toenail. An attempt to passively correct the deformity will
help elucidate the best treatment option as the examiner determines whether the toe is still flexible or not. It is advisable to assess palpable pulses, since their presence is associated with a good
prognosis for healing after surgery. X-rays will demonstrate the contractures of the involved joints, as well as possible arthritic changes and bone enlargements (exostoses, spurs). X-rays of the
involved foot are usually performed in a weight-bearing position.
Non Surgical Treatment
In the earlier stages of hammer toe, when the toes can still be manually straightened, then conservative treatment is appropriate. This means wearing shoes which are a half size bigger than normal
and which are not narrow around the toes. Exercises to stretch the toes out and strengthen the muscles under the foot which balances the tightness of the top tendons are important. Padding or corn
plasters can be used to ease the discomfort of any associated corns and calluses.
Surgical Options: Several surgical procedures are available to the podiatric physician. For less severe deformities, the surgery will remove the bony prominence and restore normal alignment of the
toe joint, thus relieving pain. Severe hammer toes, which are not fully reducible, may require more complex surgical procedures. Recuperation takes time, and some swelling and discomfort are common
for several weeks following surgery. Any pain, however, is easily managed with medications prescribed by your podiatrist.