Hammertoes are another forefoot deformity that can take a walker out of their activity. A Hammer toes
generally represent a tendon imbalance in the toes caused by one of
the toe tendons getting an advantage over another toe tendon. Most commonly, it is one or all of the long extensor tendons on the top of the foot that gets an advantage over one or all of the flexor
tendons on the bottom of the foot, to cause the first joint in the toe to be elevated above the ground. Most shoe wearing people chronically alter the delicate balance that co-exists amongst the toe
tendons whether they know it or not.
It?s thought that hammertoe may develop from wearing shoes that are too narrow or too short. This probably explains why women are far more prone to the condition than men: almost 9 out of 10 women
wear shoes that are too small. Another cause is diabetes mellitus, which produces nerve damage in the feet that may lead to hammer toe.
Pain on the bottom of your foot, especially under the ball of your foot, is one of the most common symptoms associated with hammertoes. Other common signs and symptoms of hammertoes include pain at
the top of your bent toe from footwear pressure. Corns on the top of your bent toe. Redness and swelling in your affected area. Decreased joint range of motion in your affected toe joints.
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. If the deformed toe is very painful, your doctor may recommend that you have a fluid sample withdrawn
from the joint with a needle so the fluid can be checked for signs of infection or gout (arthritis from crystal deposits).
Non Surgical Treatment
Conservative treatment is the first choice, often starting with a change of shoes to ones that have soft, larger toe spaces. Toe exercises may be prescribed to stretch and strengthen the toe muscles.
Over-the-counter straps, cushions or non-medicated corn pads may be recommended to help relieve your symptoms.
Sometimes when the joints are removed the two bones become one as they are fused in a straightened position. Many times one toe will be longer than another and a piece of bone is removed to bring the
toes in a more normal length in relation to each other. Sometimes tendons will be lengthened, or soft tissue around the joints will be cut or rebalanced to fix the deformity. Angular corrections may
also be needed. The surgeon may place fixation in your foot as it heals which may include a pin, or wires.
Although the feet naturally change over time, and abnormalities like hammertoes may be hereditary for some patients, steps may be taken to prevent their development in the Hammer toe
first place. Just as better fitting shoes are a treatment, they are also a
preventative measure for hammertoes. In addition, your podiatrist may suggest orthotics to improve the biomechanics of your feet in an effort to prevent the development of hammertoes or other
abnormalities. Calf stretching and other exercises may also be used to reverse or treat muscle imbalances that could eventually lead to hammertoe development.