Take a good look at your toes. Is one of your toes pointing down instead of out? Does it make an upside-down “V” at the first joint? Ouch. You have a hammer toe.
A hammer toe generally refers to any bending or flexion of the toe beyond normal posture. Hammertoes result from muscle imbalance which causes the ligaments and tendons to become unnaturally tight. Causes include the following:
- Injury to the toe — Poorly fitting shoes are the main culprit. If shoes are too tight, too short, or too pointy, they push the toes out of balance. Pointy, high- heeled shoes put particularly severe pressure on the toes. Women are more likely than men to get hammer toe pain caused by their footwear.
- Genetics — You may have inherited a tendency to develop hammer toes. People with flat feet or high arches are more prone to hammer toes.
- Arthritis — The balance around the toe in people with arthritis is disrupted.
Common symptoms of hammer toes include pain or irritation of the affected toe when wearing shoes; formation of corns (buildup of skin) on the top, side, or end of the toe, or between the toes; redness and swelling at the joint; restricted or pain ful motion of the toe joint; and pain in the ball of the foot at the base of the affected toe.
Here are several preventative steps and possible treatment options for hammer toes:
- Changes in Foot wear — Choose comfortable shoes with deep, high, and broad toe boxes (toe area) that can accommodate hammer toes.
- Fit is Important — Avoid wearing shoes that are too tight or narrow. Children should have their shoes properly fitted on a regular basis, because their feet can often outgrow their shoes rapidly.
- Trimming Corns and Calluses — Trimming should be done by your podiatric physician. Never attempt to trim corns or calluses yourself because you can run the risk of cuts and infection. Your podiatric physician knows the proper way to trim corns to bring you the greatest benefit.
- Padding Corns and Calluses — Padding minimizes pain and allows the patient to continue a normal, life. Your podiatric physician can provide or prescribe pads designed to shield corns from irritation.
- Surgical Options — Several surgical procedures are available to address hammer toes. For less severe hammer toes, the surgery will remove the bony prominence and restore normal alignment of the toe joint, thus relieving pain. Severe hammer toes may require more complex surgical procedures. As one would imagine, surgery is the last resort.