A hammertoe, which is a deformity that causes your toe to curl downward at the middle joint, is usually a sign of inappropriate footwear. Board-certified podiatrist Shermi Parikh, DPM, and the team at Family Foot and Ankle Center in Niles and Berwyn, Illinois, offer custom-made orthotics to correct hammertoes in their early stages and can perform minimally invasive surgery to correct advanced hammertoes if needed. For more information or a consultation, call the nearest office or schedule an appointment online today.
Hammer Toe Q &A
What is a hammertoe?
A hammertoe is a toe that curls downward at the middle joint instead of pointing straight ahead. The condition usually affects your second, third, or fourth toe.
The underlying cause of hammertoe is usually footwear that’s too short, too tight, or pointy. If your shoes don’t leave enough room for your toes to lie flat, they could cause hammertoe.
When your toes spend enough time forced into a bent position, they stay bent even when you’re not wearing shoes. The muscles and connective tissues that surround your middle toe joint can’t stretch out properly.
You’re more likely to develop hammertoes if you have:
- Flat feet or high arches
- An injury or trauma to one of your toes
- Bunions or other foot deformities that affect the alignment of your toes
If you have diabetes, hammertoes can be a serious problem because they’re more likely to develop ulcers and infections than healthy toes.
What are the signs and symptoms of a hammertoe?
A hammertoe may be rigid or flexible, depending on how advanced it is. A flexible hammertoe appears bent, but you can still move it at the joint. If they’re not treated, hammertoes eventually become rigid, stuck pointing downward.
In addition to a change in appearance and function in the affected toe, symptoms and complications of hammertoes include:
- Pain at the top of the affected toe joint when wearing shoes
- Difficulty moving the toe
- Corns on top of the toe joint
- Redness and swelling
- Pain in the ball of the foot
Be sure to schedule an appointment at Family Foot and Ankle Center to have your hammertoe evaluated and treated as soon as you notice a change in the appearance or alignment of your toes, even if you’re not in pain. Early intervention is the best way to prevent chronic foot pain and permanent changes to the affected joint.
How is hammertoe treated?
If you get treatment for your hammertoe early, while the toe is still flexible, it’s likely to respond to conservative, nonsurgical therapies. These therapies can also prevent the recurrence of hammertoes. Your doctor may recommend:
- Wearing comfortable, supportive shoes with room for your toes
- Using custom-made orthotics (shoe inserts) to correct your toe alignment and provide support
- Gentle toe exercises to stretch and strengthen muscles
- Padding, taping, or splinting
If a hammertoe has become rigid, you may require minimally invasive outpatient surgery to properly realign your toe joint. Thankfully, you can usually prevent your hammertoe from reaching this stage by getting treatment early.
If you think you may have hammer toe, be sure to call Family Foot and Ankle Center or schedule an appointment online today.