is a contracture (bending) of one or both joints of the
second, third, fourth, or fifth (little) toes. This abnormal bending can put pressure on the toe when wearing shoes, causing problems to develop. Hammertoes usually start out as mild deformities and
get progressively worse over time. In the earlier stages, hammer toes are flexible and the symptoms can often be managed with noninvasive measures. But if left untreated, hammer toes can become more
rigid and will not respond to non-surgical treatment. Because of the progressive nature of hammertoes, they should receive early attention. Hammertoes never get better without some kind of
Hammertoes are more commonly seen in women than men, due to the shoe styles women frequently wear: shoes with tight toe boxes and high heels. Genetics 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 of the feet, such as flat
feet and feet with abnormally high arches. These biomechanical abnormalities cause the muscles and tendons to be used excessively or improperly, which deforms the toes over time.
Signs and symptoms of hammertoe and mallet toe may include a hammer-like or claw-like appearance of a toe. In mallet toe, a deformity at the end of the toe, giving the toe a mallet-like appearance.
Pain and difficulty moving the toe. Corns and calluses resulting from the toe rubbing against the inside of your footwear. Both hammertoe and mallet toe can cause pain with walking and other foot
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 areas of 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
Your podiatrist may recommend conservative treatment techniques for your hammertoes based on your foot structure, which will likely involve removing any thick, painful skin, padding your painful
area, and recommending for you shoes that give your curled toes adequate room. Conservative care strategies for this health purpose may also involve the use of Correct Toes, our Hammer toe
toe straightening and toe spacing device.
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.