Hammertoe is a type of deformity that affects the toe joints and may make moving the toe difficult or painful. TriHealth Orthopedic & Sports Institute and Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine physicians offer treatment to correct the joint and relieve discomfort.
Hammertoe is a joint deformity that causes an abnormal bend in the top or middle joint of the second, third or fourth toes. It affects the ability to straighten the toe, and it may be painful. Hammertoe can make it difficult to wear shoes comfortably. Corns or calluses may form on the toe if it is constantly rubbing against the shoe. In some cases, the crooked toe will overlap the toe next to it.
A hammertoe is usually mild in the beginning and worsens over time. Without treatment, the joint may become rigid and difficult to treat without surgery.
Hammertoes often develop as a result of:
- Imbalance in the muscles, tendons or ligaments
- Injury or trauma to the toe
- Wearing narrow, tight shoes that prevent the toes from lying flat next to each other
Hammertoe symptoms may include:
- A callus, corn or thickened skin on the affected toe
- An abnormal bend in the middle joint of the toe
- Inability to straighten the toe
- Inflammation, redness or burning sensations
- Limited movement in the toe
- Pain or discomfort when wearing shoes
- Toes that overlap
Because hammertoes become worse over time, early treatment is best. our orthopedic specialists treat most mild to moderate hammertoes with nonsurgical methods. Treatments include:
- Discontinuing use of shoes that crowd the toes
- Wearing shoes that accommodate the hammertoe without pain
- Placing pads over corns and calluses to provide cushion and prevent irritation
- Using orthotic devices worn inside of shoes to control the muscle or tendon imbalance
- Wearing a strap to realign the toe
- Stretching or strengthening exercises
- Anti-inflammatory medicine to help reduce swelling and pain
In severe cases, surgery may be needed to realign the toe. Our orthopedic surgeons perform tenotomy surgery to release hammertoe, which involves cutting ligaments and tendons to help straighten the toe. This is usually done in the doctor’s office. Recovery is generally a few weeks.
Hammertoe risk factors
Factors that may increase your risk of hammertoe include:
- Age — Hammertoe risk increases with age.
- Sex — Women have a higher risk than men.
- Having certain diseases — Arthritis and diabetes might raise the risk of foot deformities.
- Heredity — Hammertoe might be inherited.
- Footwear — Footwear with a tight toe box crowds the toes.
You can help reduce your risk of developing hammertoe by following a few easy steps, including:
- Wearing shoes that fit properly and have a wide toe box
- Avoiding high heels that put pressure on the forefoot