Hammertoe Q & A
What is Hammertoe?
Hammertoe is a type of foot deformity that usually affects the second through fourth toes. The deformity develops when the tip of the toe bends down instead of pointing straight forward.
While the abnormal bending may begin due to an underlying condition, as it continues, the muscles and tendons that control toe movement become imbalanced. Your muscles work in pairs. One muscle bends the toe, while another is responsible for straightening the toe.
When your toe is forced to stay in a bent position for an extended time, the muscles tighten, making it hard for the opposing muscle to return the toe to its normal, straight position.
What Causes Hammertoe?
You may inherit a genetic tendency to form a hammertoe. Trauma to the toe, neuromuscular conditions, bunions, and inflammatory conditions like arthritis can also lead to the problem. In many cases, however, a hammertoe develops from wearing shoes that are too tight or high-heeled.
What Symptoms Develop Due to Hammertoe?
As a hammertoe progresses, you experience one or more of the following.
- Pain at the top of the bend when wearing shoes
- Formation of corns on the top of the joint
- Limited or painful toe movement
- Redness and swelling at the joint
- Pain in the ball of your foot
As the hammertoe becomes more severe, you may have a hard time finding shoes that fit.
How Do You Treat Hammertoe?
When the hammertoe starts to develop, the toe is still flexible. At this stage, conservative treatment can solve the problem. Your Sacramento Foot and Ankle Center doctor may prescribe:
- Padding and taping
- Shoes with a large toe area
- Strengthening and stretching exercises
- Anti-inflammatory medications
Your doctor may use a splint, orthotics, or taping to relieve pressure from the toe, realign its natural position, and restore muscle balance.
Without treatment, the muscles become rigid until your toe can’t move, a condition called contracture. At this stage, your only treatment option is surgery.
Sacramento Foot and Ankle Center podiatrists perform several surgical techniques to straighten hammertoe. For example, they may fuse the bones, replace a rigid tendon with healthy tissue, or perform a joint resection.
At the first sign of hammertoe, call Sacramento Foot and Ankle Center or schedule an appointment online.