A Hammer toes
is a deformity of the second, third or fourth toe in which the toe becomes bent at the middle
joint; hence, it resembles a hammer. Claw toe and mallet toe are related conditions. While a hammer toe is contracted at the first toe joint, a mallet toe is contracted at the second toe joint, and a
claw toe is contracted at both joints. According to the 2012 National Foot Health Assessment conducted by the NPD Group for the Institute for Preventive Foot Health, 3 percent of U.S. adults age 21
and older (about 7 million people) have experienced hammer toe or claw toe. The condition is significantly more prevalent in females than hammertoe
More often than not, wearing shoes that do not fit a person well for too long may actually cause hammer toes. Wearing shoes that are too narrow or too tight for the person for extended periods of
time may eventually take a toll on the person's feet. The same is true for women who like wearing high-heeled shoes with narrow toe boxes.
The most common symptoms of hammertoes include. The toe is bent upward at the middle toe joint, so that the top of this joint rubs against the top of the shoe. The remainder of the toe is bent
downward. Pain upon pressure at the top of the bent toe from footwear. The formation of corns on the top of the joint. Redness and swelling at the joint contracture. Restricted or painful motion of
the toe joint. Pain in the ball of the foot at the base of the affected toe. This occurs because the contracted digit puts pressure on the metatarsal head creating callouse and pressure on the ball
of the foot.
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
Changing the type of footwear worn is a very important step in the treatment of hammer toes. When choosing a shoe, make sure the toe box (toe area) is high and broad, and can accommodate the hammer
toes. A shoe with a high, broad toe box will provide enough room in the forefoot area so that there is less friction against the toes. Other conservative treatments include using forefoot products
designed to relieve hammer toes, such as hammer toe crests and hammer toe splints. These devices will help hold down the hammer toe and provide relief to the forefoot. Gel toe shields and gel toe
caps are also recommended to eliminate friction between the shoe and the toe, while providing comfort and lubrication.
Surgical Options: Several surgical procedures are available to the podiatric physician. For less severe deformities, the surgery will remove the bony prominence and restore normal alignment of the
toe joint, thus relieving pain. Severe hammer toes, which are not fully reducible, may require more complex surgical procedures. Recuperation takes time, and some swelling and discomfort are common
for several weeks following surgery. Any pain, however, is easily managed with medications prescribed by your podiatrist.
The best treatment is good prevention! Hammertoe can be prevented by wearing shoes with ample toe room, avoiding high heels, and wearing adjustable shoes to assure a looser fit. When buying shoes,
shop at the end of the day when your feet are swollen from daily activity, try both shoes on to confirm they fit properly, and if necessary, visit a shoe repair store to see if they can stretch your
shoes for a better fit.