What are Hammertoes?
If your toes are becoming bent or crooked, you may have hammertoes. The affliction is so named because the toes sometimes resemble the shape of a hammer. Patients will usually have pain at the top or at the end of the toe. Hammertoes often begin rubbing in shoes and as a result will become red and swollen. Sometimes hard tissue—known as a “corn”—will build on the top or end of the toe.
The most common cause of hammertoe is a muscle/tendon imbalance. This imbalance, which leads to a bending of the toe, results from mechanical (structural) changes in the foot that occur over time in some people.
Hammertoes may be aggravated by shoes that don’t fit properly. A hammertoe may result if a toe is too long and is forced into a cramped position when a tight shoe is worn.
Occasionally, hammertoe is the result of an earlier trauma to the toe. In some people, hammertoes are inherited.
Common symptoms of hammertoes include:
- Pain or irritation of the affected toe when wearing shoes.
- Corns and calluses (a buildup of skin) on the toe, between two toes, or on the ball of the foot. Corns are caused by constant friction against the shoe. They may be soft or hard, depending upon their location.
- Inflammation, redness, or a burning sensation
- Contracture of the toe
- In more severe cases of hammertoe, open sores may form
Most of the time hammertoes can be treated conservatively, without surgery. These treatments include:
-Padding corns and calluses. Your foot and ankle surgeon can provide or prescribe pads designed to shield corns from irritation. If you want to try over-the-counter pads, avoid the medicated types. Medicated pads are generally not recommended because they may contain a small amount of acid that can be harmful. Consult your surgeon about this option.