is a term used to describe a crooked, deviated, or contracted toe.
Although the condition usually stems from muscle imbalance, it is often aggravated by poor-fitting shoes or socks that cramp the toes. Over a period of years, the tendons that move the toe up and
down begin to pull the toe with unequal tension, and the toe then begins to buckle or become contracted, causing an abnormal "v"-shaped bending of the little toes. Patients with this condition often
experience pain, swelling, redness and stiffness in the affected toes.
Hammer toe usually affects the second toe. However, it may also affect the other toes. The toe moves into a claw-like position. The most common cause of hammer toe is wearing short, narrow shoes that
are too tight. The toe is forced into a bent position. Muscles and tendons in the toe tighten and become shorter. Hammer toe is more likely to occur in women who wear shoes that do not fit well or
have high heels and children who keep wearing shoes they have outgrown. The condition may be present at birth (congenital) or develop over time. In rare cases, all of the toes are affected. This may
be caused by a problem with the nerves or spinal cord.
Here is a look at some of the symptoms hammertoe can cause. They include hammer-like or claw-like appearance of the toe. Pain when walking or moving the foot. Difficulty moving the toe. Corns may
form on top of the toe. Callus may form on the sole of the foot. During the initial stages, you may be able to manually straighten your toe. This is called a flexible hammertoe. But as time passes,
the toe will not move as easily and will continue to look like a hammer. Pressure and irritation over the joint can cause a blister to develop and become a corn over time. These corns have the
potential to become infected and cause additional symptoms such as redness, bleeding, and difficulty wearing shoes and socks. Corns are the main cause of pain when hammertoes are developing.
The exam may reveal a toe in which the near bone of the toe (proximal phalanx) is angled upward and the middle bone of the toe points in the opposite direction (plantar flexed). Toes may appear
crooked or rotated. The involved joint may be painful when moved, or stiff. There may be areas of thickened skin (corns or calluses) on top of or between the toes, a callus may also be observed at
the tip of the affected toe beneath the toenail. An attempt to passively correct the deformity will help elucidate the best treatment option as the examiner determines whether the toe is still
flexible or not. It is advisable to assess palpable pulses, since their presence is associated with a good prognosis for healing after surgery. X-rays will demonstrate the contractures of the
involved joints, as well as possible arthritic changes and bone enlargements (exostoses, spurs). X-rays of the involved foot are usually performed in a weight-bearing position.
Non Surgical Treatment
For hammertoes that are still flexible, a podiatrist might recommend padding or taping the toes to relieve pain and orthotic inserts for shoes to minimize pressure and keep the toe properly aligned.
Anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroid injections can relieve pain and inflammation. For more advanced cases of hammertoe, a podiatrist might recommend a surgical procedure to cut the tendon,
allowing the toe to straighten. For hammertoes that have become rigid, a more complicated surgery might be needed, during which the podiatrist removes part of the bone at the deformed joint to allow
it to straighten.
Probably the most frequent procedure performed is one called a Post or an Arthroplasty. In this case a small piece of bone is removed from the joint to straighten the toe. The toe is shortened
somewhat, but there is still motion within the toe post-operatively. In other cases, an Arthrodesis is performed. This involves fusing the abnormally-contracted joint. The Taylor procedure fuses only
the first joint in the toe, whereas the Lambrinudi procedure fuses both joints within the toe. Toes which have had these procedures are usually perfectly straight, but they take longer to heal and
don't bend afterwards. A Hibbs procedure is a transfer of the toe's long extensor tendon to the top of the metatarsal bone. The idea of this procedure is to remove the deforming cause of the
hammertoes (in this case, extensor substitution), but to preserve the tendon's function in dorsifexing the foot by reattaching it to the metatarsals. Fortunately, the Gotch (or Gotch and Kreuz)
procedure--the removal of the base of the toe where it attaches to the foot, is done less frequently than in years past. The problem with this procedure is that it doesn't address the problem at the
level of the deformity, and it causes the toe to become destabilized, often resulting in a toe that has contracted up and back onto the top of the foot. You can even have an hammertoe
Implant Arthroplasty procedure, where a small, false joint is inserted into place. There are
several other procedures, as well.
You can avoid many foot, heel and ankle problems with shoes that fit properly. See your doctor if you have foot pain that's persistent and that affects your ability to walk properly and carry out
other motions with your foot. Also, see your doctor if one or more of your toes has developed a clenched or claw-like appearance.