Essentially, there's one consistent type of Hammer toe
, the condition in which your toes are contracted into a hammer
or upside-down "V" shape. However, depending on its severity, hammertoe is characterized into two forms. Flexible hammertoe is hammertoe in which the joints of the toes are still moveable or flexible
and can be treated with nonsurgical therapies. Rigid hammertoe is the more serious condition in which the joints' muscles and tendons have lost any flexibility and the contraction cannot be corrected
by nonsurgical means. As a result, surgery is generally required to deal with the problem. This is why it's important to consult a physician as soon as the problem is recognized for the possibility
of successful nonsurgical treatment.
People who have a high-arched feet have an increased chance of hammer toes occurring. Also, patients with bunion deformities notice the second toe elevating and becoming hammered to make room for the
big toe that is moving toward it. Some patients damage the ligament that holds the toe in place at the bottom of the joint that connects the toe and foot. When this ligament (plantar plate) is
disrupted or torn, the toe floats upward at this joint. Hammer toes also occur in women wearing ill-fitting shoes or high heels, and children wearing shoes they have outgrown.
People who have painful hammertoes visit their podiatrist because their affected toe is either rubbing on the end their shoe (signaling a contracted flexor tendon), rubbing on the top of their shoe
(signaling a contracted extensor tendon), or rubbing on another toe and causing a painful buildup of thick skin, known as a corn.
Some questions your doctor may ask of you include, when did you first begin having foot problems? How much pain are your feet or toes causing you? Where is the pain located? What, if anything, seems
to improve your symptoms? What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms? What kind of shoes do you normally wear? Your doctor can diagnose hammertoe or mallet toe by examining your foot. Your
doctor may also order X-rays to further evaluate the bones and joints of your feet and toes.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment Hammer toes
for a hammertoe usually depends on the stage of the hammertoe and the
cause of the condition. If your toe is still bendable, your doctor may suggest conservative care-relieving pressure with padding and strapping, or proper shoes that have a deep toe box and are of
adequate length and width. Early intervention can often prevent the need for surgery.
Surgery to correct for a hammertoe may be performed as a day procedure. There are several different types of procedures that can be used depending on the foot structure and if the deformity is
flexible or rigid.
Preventative treatment of hammertoe is directed toward the cause of the deformity. A functional orthotic is a special insert that can be prescribed by your podiatrist to address the abnormal
functioning of the foot that causes the hammertoe. Functional orthotics can be thought of as contact lenses for your feet. They correct a number of foot problems that are caused by an abnormally
functioning foot. Our feet, much like our eyes, change with time. Functional orthotics slow down or halt this gradual change in the foot. Often when orthotics are used for flexible hammertoes, the
toes will overtime straighten out and correct themselves. Calf stretching exercises are also helpful. Calf stretching can help to overcome part of the muscle imbalance that causes the hammertoe.