or contracted toe is a deformity of the proximal interphalangeal joint of the second,
third, or fourth toe causing it to be permanently bent, resembling a hammer. Mallet toe is a similar condition affecting the distal interphalangeal joint.
Your shoes, your genetic predisposition, an underlying medical condition or all of these can make you susceptible to developing one of these deformities of the toes. The genes your parents gave you.
When it comes to genetics, the foot type you?re born with predisposes you to Hammer toe
type of joint deformity over a lifetime. For many, a flat flexible foot leads to hammertoes as the foot tries to stabilize against a flattening arch. Those with high arches can also form hammertoes
as the extensor tendons overpower the flexors.
If the toes remain in the hammertoe position for long periods, the tendons on the top of the foot will tighten over time because they are not stretched to their full length. Eventually, the tendons
shorten enough that the toe stays bent, even when shoes are not being worn. The symptoms of hammertoe include a curling toe, pain or discomfort in the toes and ball of the foot or the front of the
leg, especially when toes are stretched downward, thickening of the skin above or below the affected toe with the formation of corns or calluses, difficulty finding shoes that fit well. In its early
stages, hammertoe is not obvious. Frequently, hammertoe does not cause any symptoms except for the claw-like toe shape.
Some questions your doctor may ask of you include, when did you first begin having foot problems? How much pain are your feet or toes causing you? Where is the pain located? What, if anything, seems
to improve your symptoms? What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms? What kind of shoes do you normally wear? Your doctor can diagnose hammertoe or mallet toe by examining your foot. Your
doctor may also order X-rays to further evaluate the bones and joints of your feet and toes.
Non Surgical Treatment
Apply a commercial, nonmedicated hammertoe pad around the bony prominence of the hammertoe. This will decrease pressure on the area. Wear a shoe with a deep toe box. If the hammertoe becomes inflamed
and painful, apply ice packs several times a day to reduce swelling. Avoid heels more than two inches tall. A loose-fitting pair of shoes can also help protect the foot while reducing pressure on the
affected toe, making walking a little easier until a visit to your podiatrist can be arranged. It is important to remember that, while this treatment will make the hammertoe feel better, it does not
cure the condition. A trip to the podiatric physician?s office will be necessary to repair the toe to allow for normal foot function. Avoid wearing shoes that are too tight or narrow. Children should
have their shoes properly fitted on a regular basis, as their feet can often outgrow their shoes rapidly. See your podiatric physician if pain persists.
Extreme occurrences of hammer toe may call for surgery. Your surgeon will decide which form of surgery will best suit your case. Often, the surgeon may have to cut or remove a tendon or ligament.
Depending on the severity of your condition, the bones on both sides of the joint afflicted may need to be fused together. The good news is you can probably have your surgery and be released to go
home in one day. You will probably experience some stiffness in your toe, but it might last for a short period, then your long-term pain will be eliminated.
Preventative treatment of hammertoe is directed toward the cause of the deformity. A functional orthotic is a special insert that can be prescribed by your podiatrist to address the abnormal
functioning of the foot that causes the hammertoe. Functional orthotics can be thought of as contact lenses for your feet. They correct a number of foot problems that are caused by an abnormally
functioning foot. Our feet, much like our eyes, change with time. Functional orthotics slow down or halt this gradual change in the foot. Often when orthotics are used for flexible hammertoes, the
toes will overtime straighten out and correct themselves. Calf stretching exercises are also helpful. Calf stretching can help to overcome part of the muscle imbalance that causes the hammertoe.