What exactly is a Hammer Toe? And why is it called that?
A hammer toe is a deformity of your second, third or fourth toes. The toe is typically bent at the middle joint so it resembles a hammer.
What causes a Hammer Toe?
Hammer toes are created when the two main tendons that extend the toe upwards and flex it downwards become imbalanced.
What are common symptoms?
Your symptoms are determined by your choice of shoes, structural issues, and how long the problem has existed. Initially, simple treatment may correct your hammer toe while it is still flexible; however, over time, if left untreated your toe can become fixed and may require surgery.
Common symptoms include:
- Corns or calluses on the top of the middle joint of the toe
- Corns or calluses on the tip of the toe
- Pain in your toes or feet
- Difficulty finding comfortable shoes
- Redness at the point of contraction
- Decreased function
- Large callous on the bottom of your foot
How is Hammer Toe diagnosed?
Your diagnosis will be based on a physical exam by a Summit foot specialist and possible x-rays.
What are my treatment options?
Summit specialists practice a conservative approach to treatment which means they first explore successful non-surgical options to get you back on your feet before considering surgery. Treatment options include:
- Roomy, shoes with wide toe boxes
- Shoes one-half inch longer than your longest toe
- Avoid tight, narrow, high-heeled shoes
- Toe exercises to stretch and strengthen muscles
- Non-medicated corn pads
NOTE: If you have diabetes, poor circulation, or a lack of feeling in your feet, talk to your Summit care physician before attempting any self treatment.
What if I need surgery? What can I expect?
Surgery can be effective in correcting Hammer Toe if non-surgical treatments fail. Typically Hammer Toe surgery is done on an outpatient basis with a local anesthetic. After your surgery, you may notice some stiffness, swelling and redness, and your toe may be slightly longer or shorter than before. You will be asked to keep your foot elevated as much as possible.
Summit foot and ankle expert Michael Anderson, D.O., explains the most common, treatable causes of foot pain in this two-part article series.