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What is a Hammer Toe?

Updated: May 27, 2023

In this section Cypress Foot and Ankle expert Dr. Christopher Correa discusses hammer toes. The term “Hammer toes” refers to a condition where one or more of the toes become bent at the middle joint, causing the toe to resemble a hammer. This deformity most commonly affects the second, third, or fourth toes and can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, muscle imbalances, nerve damage, and wearing shoes that are too tight or too short. Initially hammer toes are flexible and easily reducible but as time goes on the joint can become contracted leading to rigid, non-reducible toes.

Hammer toes can be uncomfortable and can cause pain and irritation when wearing shoes, as well as calluses and corns on the affected toe. In severe cases, hammer toes can also make it difficult to walk and perform daily activities. Flexible hammer toes often produce minimal symptoms because the toe is still able to flex and move out of the way when outside pressure is applied. Long standing hammer toes that become rigid are more likely to develop calluses and be painful especially when wearing shoes. Calluses are typically seen at the top of the 2nd toe near the bend, but it is not uncommon to develop a callus at the tip of the toe under the nail. It is very important to keep in mind that you should not pick or pull these calluses especially if you are diabetic. It is possible to “get more tissue” than you realize and create an infection which could spread to the bone and may require amputation.

Treatment for hammer toes typically begins with conservative measures, such as wearing shoes with a wider and deeper toe box, using orthotics or padding, shaving the callus and using callus softening medications, and performing stretching and strengthening exercises for the foot and ankle. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the deformity and relieve pain. Arthrodesis or fusion of one of the joints in the toes is typically the best surgical approach though other options like tendon transfers could be an option. Depending on the extend of the deformity whether or not there is an associated deformity at the ball of the foot could require additional procedures the rebalance the toe and correct the deformity.

If you are experiencing symptoms of hammer toes, it is important to see a doctor for a proper evaluation and diagnosis. Your doctor can recommend the most appropriate treatment plan to help you manage your symptoms and prevent the condition from worsening. If you are concerned about painful or misshapen toes, give the experts at Select Foot and Ankle Specialists a call or contact and take the first step toward recovery today!

A s hoe, hammer toes

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