Hammertoes are a Common Foot Deformity Leaving Your Toes Curled

A hammertoe is a deformity of the second, third, or fourth toes. In this condition, the toe is bent at the middle joint, resembling a hammer. Left untreated, hammertoes can become inflexible and require surgery. People with hammertoes may have corns or calluses on the top or tip of the toe because of the friction between the toe and their shoes. They may also feel pain in their toes or feet and have difficulty finding comfortable shoes.

What causes hammertoes?

Foot with HammertoeA common cause is a muscle imbalance, which may be caused by the way you walk. Genetics also play a role, as this condition can be passed on from your parents. If they have curled toes, you are more likely to develop the problem. Although shoes are not a real cause of hammertoes, they are certainly an aggravating factor. When patients wear shoes that are too small or shoes that squeeze toes into tight positions, high heels, or very pointed shoes, the muscles in the toe cannot fully extend and therefore become shortened. This most often occurs with excessively high heels, small shoes, and shoes with narrow toe boxes. It’s not uncommon for a patient to experience bunions as well as hammertoes because both of them are often caused by ill-fitting footwear.

Finding the proper fit is an important step in preventing conditions like hammertoes from developing. If you walk and your feet roll inward (pronation) this causes an abnormal pulling of the tendons that end in the toes, causing them to pull the toe into a contracted state thus causing the hammertoes. Over time the toe may become fixed in this bent position causing increased pain and deformity.

What can be done to treat hammertoes?

Treatment for hammertoes typically involves wearing shoes with soft, roomy toe boxes and engaging in physical therapy toe exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles. Commercially available straps, cushions, or non-medicated corn pads may also relieve symptoms. The ultimate goal is to get the toes back in a normal position where they can naturally go straight. Often times functional orthotic devices can be made to wear in the shoes to eliminate the abnormal rolling in of the feet and reduce a flexible hammertoe deformity.

In some severe cases, the deformity is so far along that conservative treatments like physical therapy and footwear changes, padding and periodic removal of the corns, will not eliminate pain. In these cases, hammertoe surgery may be recommended to correct the deformity.

However bad your condition is, Dr. Harvey Danciger can help you through it. Dr. Danciger loves to help his patients get back to their normal routines with healthy feet. If you suspect your hammertoes need treatment or are simply wondering if you have hammertoes, please call his office at (760) 568-0108 or schedule an appointment online today.

Dr. Harvey Danciger
Dr. Harvey Danciger is a podiatrist and foot surgeon in Palm Desert, CA specializing in the foot and ankle