Hammer, mallet, and claw toes have distinctive differences that can assist you in determining what kind of toe problem you are dealing with. All three conditions deal with toes that are curved into
abnormal positions, which possibly look strange and may cause pain. Typically, the big toe is not affected by these problems. A Hammer toes
tends to bend downward at the center of a toe joint. It generally affects your second toe. The affliction causes the center of your toe to rise and is often accompanied with a bony lump.
Claw, hammer and mallet toe are most commonly caused by wearing high heels or ill-fitting shoes that are too tight e.g. narrow toebox. If shoes like this are worn for long periods, the foot is held
in a slightly bent position and gradually over time, the muscles tighten and shorten. If this continues for long enough, then the muscles become so tight that even when shoes are removed, the toe is
still held in the bent position. Another common cause is Morton?s Toe, where the second toe is longer than the big toe. In this case, the second toe is commonly squashed into a shoe into an
unnaturally bent position.
Hammer, claw, and mallet toes can Hammer toe
cause discomfort and pain and may
make it hard to walk. Shoes may rub on your toes, causing pain, blisters, calluses or corns, or sores. Sores can become infected and lead to cellulitis or osteomyelitis, especially if you have
diabetes or peripheral arterial disease. If you have one of these health problems and sores develop, contact your doctor.
Your doctor is very likely to be able to diagnose your hammertoe simply by examining your foot. Even before that, he or she will probably ask about your family and personal medical history and
evaluate your gait as you walk and the types of shoes you wear. You'll be asked about your symptoms, when they started and when they occur. You may also be asked to flex your toe so that your doctor
can get an idea of your range of motion. He or she may order x-rays in order to better define your deformity.
Non Surgical Treatment
Hammer toes usually get progressively worse over time, especially if you avoid seeking care. Not all cases are the same, so it is important to get your podiatrist or foot surgeon to evaluate your
condition so that you can get the treatment you need as soon as possible. Your treatment options will vary depending on the severity of your hammer toe. You may not require surgery to treat your
hammer toe. Your doctor may suggest one of these less invasive measures. Instead of wearing shoes that are too high or too short, wear comfortable shoes that have plenty of room and are flat or
low-heeled. Your doctor can prescribe pads that will prevent your corns or calluses from getting irritated. Avoid over-the-counter medicated pads, as they contain acid that can worsen your condition.
An orthotic device can be customized to fit your shoe and foot. It can help control your tendon and muscle imbalance, which in turn may ease your pain. NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
such as ibuprofen can reduce inflammation. By relieving swelling in your toe joint, you can alleviate your pain. Splints or small straps can be placed on your toe by a foot surgeon to realign your
bent toe. Applying ice packs wrapped in cloth on your hammer toe can reduce inflammation and swelling. Gently massaging your toes can assist in alleviating your pain caused by hammer toes. Try
exercises that stretch your feet as these can help restore your muscle balance. A simple exercise that can help is to pick up a cloth or small object from the floor by curling your toes. This action
will help your feet and toes by stretching them.
For the surgical correction of a rigid hammertoe, the surgical procedure consists of removing the damaged skin where the corn is located. Then a small section of bone is removed at the level of the
rigid joint. The sutures remain in place for approximately ten days. During this period of time it is important to keep the area dry. Most surgeons prefer to leave the bandage in place until the
patient's follow-up visit, so there is no need for the patient to change the bandages at home. The patient is returned to a stiff-soled walking shoe in about two weeks. It is important to try and
stay off the foot as much as possible during this time. Excessive swelling of the toe is the most common patient complaint. In severe cases of hammertoe deformity a pin may be required to hold the
toe in place and the surgeon may elect to fuse the bones in the toe. This requires several weeks of recovery.
Daily modifications and correct shoe choices can prevent and slow the progression of hammertoe deformities. The main cause in hammertoe deformities is muscle/tendon dysfunction. Wearing of
ill-fitting, tight, high heeled shoes contributes to the progression to hammertoe deformities. Also, bunion conditions can enhance the formation of hammertoes. A key to prevention of hammertoes is
the wearing of correct footwear, specifically shoes with appropriate support and a deep, wide toe box.