What To Expect From Hammertoes & How to Treat Them

Have you ever wondered what caused your perfectly straight toes to bend? Why are your toes now rubbing against any shoe that you wear?

Hammertoe is a progressive deformity that results from contracture (bending) of one or both joints of the second, third, fourth, or fifth toes. In the earlier stages, hammertoes are flexible, and symptoms can be managed with noninvasive measures. They can become rigid over time requiring surgical treatment. Hammertoes never get better without some kind of intervention.

The most common cause of hammertoes is a muscle/tendon imbalance. The imbalance can be a result of mechanical (structural) or neurological changes in the foot. The symptoms can be aggravated by wearing shoes that don’t fit properly. In some cases, hammertoes are inherited.

Common symptoms of hammer toes include pain or irritation of the affected toe in shoes, build-up of a callus or corn due to the constant friction against the shoe, toe contracture, inflammation, redness, or burning sensation. In severe cases, open wounds may form.

Although the deformity is readily apparent in most cases, proper diagnosis is required for adequate treatment. During the physical examination, your doctor may attempt to reproduce your symptoms by manipulating your foot and will study the contractures of the toes. In addition, the x-rays will be taken to determine the degree of the deformities and assess any changes that may have occurred.

There are a variety of different treatments for hammertoes depending upon the severity of the deformity. Your doctor will discuss the non-surgical and surgical treatments with you. You may use a pad to prevent friction such as moleskin, gel toe sleeves, crest pads, splints. Do not use any medicated pads. Wear shoes with wider and deeper toe box, make sure to get your foot measured before buying new shoes for proper sizing. A custom orthotic device placed in your shoe may help control the muscle/tendon imbalance. Corticosteroid injections are sometimes used to ease pain and inflammation caused by hammertoe.

If surgical treatment is warranted, your surgeon will discuss the appropriate procedure with you. At SVPG, we perform a minor surgical procedure in the office, flexor tenotomy and capsulotomy, and extensor tenotomy, that can provide immediate relief from the contracture with no significant downtime. Come visit us to get your toes fixed today!