Hammer Toe Overview
Hammer toe is defined as a deformity in the toe where part of the toe is permanently bent downward resembling a hammer. Two related conditions are mallet toe and claw toe which effect different toe joints in slightly different ways. The key difference is that hammer toe tends to effect the middle joint in the toe (note: not the middle toe, the middle toe joint). The disease is usually associated with the second largest toe but can effect the third or fourth toe as well. Mallet toe effects the uppermost toe joint whereas claw toe is caused by the tow being held in a cramped “claw-like” position.
Hammer Toe Causes
Footwear is actually the leading cause of this type of toe deformity so much so that people sometimes require hammer toe surgery to undo some of the damage. The most common problem is wearing shoes that are too short, too narrow or too tight. These shoes constricts the feet and force the toes into a bend position. Women are more at risk especially due to high heels.
Footwear isn’t the only problem, poor foot posture can lead to muscle and even bone imbalances. This asymmetry can cause excessive strain on the toes either by forcing the toe into unnatural positions. Arthritis can also play a factor in the development of hammer toe, especially if the toe joint is stiff and incapable of a full range of motion.
Hammer Toe Symptoms
The most obvious symptoms of this injury will be the the middle toe joint is permanently bent at an angle. In the beginning movement may still be possible but as time passes and the injury worsens the toe will be locked in place and possible require hammer toe correction surgery to fix.
Another key indicator of hammer toe is that a lump or corn will form on top of the toe. The toe joint will be painful and walking can cause severe discomfort. Occasionally a callus may form on the sole of the injured foot. If you see any of these symptoms together or have been enduring pain for some time, seeing a podiatrist should be your next step.
Hammer Toe Treatment
If the problem is caught in the early stages you can avoid hammer toe surgery. One of the easiest methods of treatment is to manipulate the toe out of a bent position then splint and buddy wrap it alongside it’s larger neighbour. This method of hammer toe taping will help the problem to fix itself. Make sure the toe isn’t resuming its bent shape during the recovery.
To alleviate some of the painful symptoms of hammer toe avoid wearing high heels or shoes that cramp or stifle your feet. Choosing a pair of minimalist shoes can be an excellent choice for both foot and postural health. Wearing shoes that give the toes plenty of space and are comfortable lined is also a smart choice. Hammer toe recovery starts be treating the toe respectfully. Soft insoles or protection for the corn can also provide additional assistance.
A toe doctor can provide you with devices such as hammer toe regulators or straighteners. These are also available for purchase locally. Another good idea is to start the hammer toe rehabilitation process by gently trying to straighten the joint and moving and flexing the affected toe as much as possible without straining it.
If hammer toe taping doesn’t work, you may require surgery. If the joints and tendons have stiffened to a point of non-movement, hammer toe corrective surgery may need to enter the toe and either cut or manually move some of the tendons and ligaments. Although the treatment is relatively safe fast, you may deal with some stiffness afterwards.
Hammer Toe Summary
As previously mentioned it’s best to catch this problem early; hammer toe taping is relatively harmless and simple. Long term complications can cause foot deformities and even difficulty walking. It’s always best to stiff shoes and high heel, especially if you’re working on hammer toe recovery. Pick comfortable shoes with plenty of toe space. Prevention is the best cure here as this injury is nearly always self inflicted.