If you sneak a peek at your feet and notice that your toes are crossed, bent, or just pointing at an odd angle, you probably suffer from a hammertoe
. Toes that are scrunched up inside tight shoes or pressed against the toe box of the shoe
can bend at the joints and stay that way - resulting in a hammertoe. A hammertoe is a contracture of the toe at one of the two joints in the toe. Due to the pull of the tendons, the joints become
more rigid over time. The toe is bent up at the joint and does not straighten out.
The muscles of each toe work in pairs. When the toe muscles get out of balance, a hammer toe can form. Muscle imbalance puts a lot of pressure on the toe's tendons and joints. This pressure forces
the toe into a hammerhead shape. How do the toe muscles get out of balance? There are three main reasons. Your genes, you may have inherited a tendency to develop hammer toes because your foot is
slightly unstable - such as a flat foot. But high-arched feet can also get hammer toes. Arthritis. Injury to the toe: ill-fitting shoes are the main culprits of this cause. If shoes are too tight,
too short, or too pointy, they push the toes out of balance. Pointy, high-heeled shoes put particularly severe pressure on the toes.
If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to hammer toe. Talk to your doctor about symptoms such as a toe that curls down, corns on the top of a toe, calluses on the sole of the foot
or bottom of the toe, pain in the middle joint of a toe, discomfort on the top of a toe, difficulty finding any shoes that fit comfortably, cramping in a toe, and sometimes also the foot and leg,
difficult or painful motion of a toe Hammer toes
joint, pain in the ball of the
foot or at the base of a toe.
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
Treatment for a hammertoe usually depends on the stage of the hammertoe and the cause of the condition. If your toe is still bendable, your doctor may suggest conservative care-relieving pressure
with padding and strapping, or proper shoes that have a deep toe box and are of adequate length and width. Early intervention can often prevent the need for surgery.
There are several surgical techniques used to treat hammertoes. When the problem is less severe, the doctor will remove a small piece of bone at the involved joint and realign the toe joint. More
severe hammer toes may need more complicated surgery.
If you notice the beginning signs of hammertoe, you may be able to prevent the tendons from tightening by wearing toe-friendly shoes, by flattening your toes regularly, and by soaking your feet every
day in warm water, then stretching your toes and ankles by pointing your toes. Foot exercises also can help to maintain or restore the flexibility of the tendons. One simple exercise is to place a
small towel on the floor and then pick it up using only your toes. You also can grasp at carpet with your toes or curl your toes up and down repeatedly.