Hammer toe is defined as a deformity in the toe where part of the toe is permanently bent downward resembling a hammer. Two related conditions are mallet toe and claw toe which effect different toe
joints in slightly different ways. The key difference is that hammertoe
effect the middle joint in the toe (note: not the middle toe, the middle toe joint). The disease is usually associated with the second largest toe but can effect the third or fourth toe as well.
Mallet toe effects the uppermost toe joint whereas claw toe is caused by the tow being held in a cramped ?claw-like? position.
More often than not, wearing shoes that do not fit a person well for too long may actually cause hammer toes. Wearing shoes that are too narrow or too tight for the person for extended periods of
time may eventually take a toll on the person's feet. The same is true for women who like wearing high-heeled shoes with narrow toe boxes.
The most obvious symptom of hammertoe is the Hammer toes
bent, hammer-like or claw-like appearance of one or
more of your toes. Typically, the proximal joint of a toe will be bending upward and the distal joint will be bending downward. In some cases, both joints may bend downward, causing the toes to curl
under the foot. In the variation of mallet toe, only the distal joint bends downward. Other symptoms may include Pain and stiffness during movement of the toe, Painful corns on the tops of the toe or
toes from rubbing against the top of the shoe's toe box, Painful calluses on the bottoms of the toe or toes, Pain on the bottom of the ball of the foot, Redness and swelling at the joints. If you
have any of these symptoms, especially the hammer shape, pain or stiffness in a toe or toes, you should consider consulting your physician. Even if you're not significantly bothered by some of these
symptoms, the severity of a hammertoe can become worse over time and should be treated as soon as possible. Up to a point hammertoes can be treated without surgery and should be taken care of before
they pass that point. After that, surgery may be the only solution.
Most health care professionals can diagnose hammertoe simply by examining your toes and feet. X-rays of the feet are not needed to diagnose hammertoe, but they may be useful to look for signs of some
types of arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis) or other disorders that can cause hammertoe.
Non Surgical Treatment
Symptomatic treatment of hammertoes consists of such things as open toed shoes or hammertoe pads. There are over the counter corn removers for temporally reducing the painful callous often seen with
the hammertoe. These medications must be used with caution. They are a mild acid that burns the callous off. These medications should never be used for corns or callouses between the toes. Persons
with diabetes or bad circulation should never use these products.
Surgery may be the treatment of choice if conservative approaches prove unsuccessful. Usually performed as an outpatient procedure, the specific surgery will depend on the type and extent of injury
to the toe. Recovery my take several days or weeks and you may experience some redness, stiffness and swelling of the affected toe. Your physician will recommend taking it easy and to keep your foot
elevated while you recover.