The term Hammer toe
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 Hammer toe
and 80 years of age.
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.
Patients with hammer toe(s) may develop pain on the top of the toe(s), tip of the toe, and/or on the ball of the foot. Excessive pressure from shoes may result in the formation of a hardened portion
of skin (corn or callus) on the knuckle and/or ball of the foot. Some people may not recognize that they have a hammer toe, rather they identity the excess skin build-up of a corn.The toe(s) may
become irritated, red, warm, and/or swollen. The pain may be dull and mild or severe and sharp. Pain is often made worse by shoes, especially shoes that crowd the toes. While some hammer toes may
result in significant pain, others may not be painful at all. Painful toes can prevent you from wearing stylish 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 infection.
Non Surgical Treatment
Padding and Taping. Often this is the first step in a treatment plan. Padding the hammertoe prominence minimizes pain and allows the patient to continue a normal, active life. Taping may change the
imbalance around the toes and thus relieve the stress and pain. Medication. Anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections can be prescribed to ease acute pain and inflammation caused by the joint
deformity. Orthotic Devices. Custom shoe inserts made by your podiatrist may be useful in controlling foot function. An orthotic device may reduce symptoms and prevent the worsening of the hammertoe
If you have a severe case of hammer toe or if the affected toe is no longer flexible, you may need surgery to straighten your toe joint. Surgery requires only a local anesthetic (numbing medicine for
the affected area) and is usually an outpatient procedure. This means you don?t have to stay in the hospital for the surgery.