What is a Hammertoe?
A hammertoe is a contracture - or bending - of the toe at the first joint of the digit, called the proximal interphalangeal joint. This bending causes the toe to appear like an upside-down V when looked at from the side. Any toe can be involved, but the condition usually affects the second through fifth toes, known as the lesser digits. Hammertoes are more common to females than males.
Two Different Types of Hammertoes
These are less serious becuase they can be diagnosed and treated while in the developmental stage. They are called flexible hammertoes because they are still moveable at the joint.
This variety is more developed and more serious than the flexible condition. Rigid hammertoes can be seen in people with severe arthritis, for example, or in people who wait too long to seek professional treatment. The tendons in a rigid hammertoe have become tight, and the joint misaligned and immobile, making surgery the usual course of treatment.
- Pain upon pressure at the top of the bent toe from footwear
- The formation of corns on the top of the joint
- Redness and swelling at the joint contracture
- Restricted or painful motion of the toe joint
- Pain in the ball of the foot at the base of the affected toe
How Do You Get a Hammertoe?
A hammertoe is formed due to an abnormal balance of the muscles in the toes. This abnormal balance causes increased pressures on the tendons and joints of the toe, leading to its contracture. Heredity and trauma can also lead to the formation of a hammertoe. Arthritis is another factor, because the balance around the toe in people with arthritis is so disrupted that a hammertoe may develop. Wearing shoes that are too tight and cause the toes to squeeze can also be a cause for a hammertoe to form.
What Can You Do for Relief?
- Apply a commercial, nonmedicated hammertoe pad around the bony prominence of the hammertoe. This will decrease pressure on the area.
- Wear a shoe with a deep toe box
- If the hammertoe becomes inflamed and painful, apply ice packs several times a day to reduce swelling
- Avoid heels more than two inches tall
- Avoid wearing shoes that are too tight or narrow. Children should have their shoes properly fitted on a regular basis, as their feet can often outgrow their shoes rapidly.