How to deal with a hammer toe?
Posted: Jun 05, 2021
Hammer toes are commonly seen by podiatrists as they can be a source of pain in the foot. A hammer toe is a term that is commonly used to describe any type of toe deformity, but a hammer toe is a specific deformity of a toe. A hammer toe deformity usually only exists in one toe at what is called the proximal interphalangeal joint. This is the joint at the base of the toe and it points upward and the end of the toe points downwards.
The main symptom of a hammer toe is usually when something like a corn develops on the top of the toe from the shoe pressure and becomes painful. This usually happen when you are wearing tight shoes that put pressure on the top or end of the toe. There may be a bursa that develops under the corn or instead of the corn. Most of the symptoms that develop are due to pressure from footwear on the toe. There may also be a callus that develops under the metatarsal head at the base of the toe on the ball of the foot. Initially, a hammer toe is flexible, but when longstanding it can become more rigid.
Hammer toes are caused by a number of things. In most cases some people are just structurally prone to develop hammer toes indicating a hereditary factor. Tight footwear is an important factor in the cause of hammer toes. The tight footwear also provides the pressure that causes the symptoms. It is also considered that weaker small muscles in the foot may also play a role in their development.
Hammer toes prevention can be difficult as symptoms do not usually start until the problem is well established, so it is well on the way. The wearing of shoes that have extra room in the toes may help the problem or at least slow down its development.
There are many different approaches that podiatrists may take to manage a hammer toe. The first approach that is important to follow is advice regarding appropriate footwear. There needs to be the correct amount of space in the toe box of the footwear that will allow room for the toes to function without excessive pressure on them. If a corn is present on the toe then this will need to be treated. In the early stages when the toe is still flexible, it may be possible to use splints or tape to try and hold the toe in a corrected position. Unless the footwear is correctly fitted then this is often unsuccessful. Podiatrists often use padding to get pressure off the toe to help the symptoms. If these conservative treatments are unsuccessful at helping the symptoms, then surgery is often a good option. Surgery to correct a hammer toe may be performed as a day procedure if needed. There are several different types of procedures that can be used depending on the foot structure and if the deformity is flexible or rigid. If you have a hammer toe that is causing problems, then see a podiatrist.
Craig Payne is a University lecturer, runner, cynic, researcher, skeptic, forum admin, woo basher, clinician, rabble-rouser, blogger and a dad.