What is a hammertoe?

hammer-toeHammertoe is a disease most commonly affects the women’s population on a larger scale in comparison with the men’s population. What is hammer toe? Hammertoe is a type of deformity of your toes, which is bending of your toes, especially of second, third, fourth and fifth toes forward. The deformity often happens in the proximal interphalangeal joint. This disease or the abnormal bending can be seen often, and can be the result of our own fashion mistakes, will be the major cause of hammertoe.

What are the causes of hammertoe?

Hammertoe has various ranges of causes, but the issues related to fashion dominate the list. The mechanism of hammertoe development in which these changes develop as a reflection of the muscle and tendon imbalance. The causes are

  • Different types of footwear or not properly fitting footwear, especially if it is tight or high-heeled shoes.
  • Trauma to the toes – The trauma of any nature to the toes can result in the development of hammertoe.
  • Nerve injury, which can be either spinal cord injury or peripheral nerve damage
  • Bunion which exerts pressure
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Gout
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Charcot-marie-tooth disease
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • A small percentage of hammer toe linked to genetics
  • Friedreich’s ataxia

Signs and symptoms

  • The most common symptom is pain in the affected toe while wearing footwear.
  • The appearance of the signs of inflammation such as red colour over the affected area, slightly increased temperature of the affected area, and an unpleasant sensation in the affected area.
  • Bending or contracture of the toes of their proximal interphalangeal joints.
  • Development of corns, which are the result of constant friction while wearing not proper fitting footwear.
  • Calluses, which is a formation of skin, especially in between toes or on the toe.

What are the different types of hammertoe?

The hammertoe can be divided into two types of hammertoe, which are flexible hammertoe and rigid hammertoe.

Flexible hammertoe means, the affected toes can be movable and can bring back to their original position. This is the initial phase of hammertoe development.

Rigid hammertoe is characterized by fixed toe position and it cannot be moved from its contracted position. It happens as a result of the increased rigidity of the toe’s tendon. The change is irreversible unless a surgical procedure is performed.

How to achieve the diagnosis?

The diagnosis of hammertoe is not a complex procedure. The doctor, especially foot surgeon examines the leg, along with a complete tracking of the symptoms and signs appeared. The physical examination together with the full history of the patient will help to state the diagnosis of hammertoe.

However, as to confirm the diagnosis, the doctor uses the x-ray of the foot to identify the changes present in the foot to pinpoint the diagnosis of hammertoe.

What are the treatment options available?

There are widespread treatment options available for us to treat hammertoe. The selection of the treatment solely depends on the degree and the severity of the hammertoe. The treatment option also greatly relies on the type of hammertoe. The flexible hammertoe does not need a surgical correction; on the other hand, the rigid hammertoe needs the surgical correction of the deformity.

The non-surgical treatment of hammertoe is the use of different forms of elements in the treatment procedure for the flexible type of hammertoe. It includes,

  • The conservative treatment with the use of NSAIDS and /or corticosteroids injection to reduce the pain and inflammatory changes.
  • The change in your footwear, which includes the need for comfortable and spacious footwear rather than a fashionable heel and other items with narrow front.
  • The use of different types of pads to protect the area of irritation in the regions of corns as well as calluses.
  • The prescription and the introduction of orthotic devices to improve the situation of muscle and tendon imbalance.
  • Application of the strap or splint on the affected toes by the surgeons by re-bringing them to their original positions.
  • The use of different forms of foot and ankle exercise to ease the pain.

The main indication for the need of surgical intervention is through the appearance of open sores in the affected toe. Hence, the foot and the ankle surgeon decide on the type of correction needed to help by considering the facts as if age, severity of disease, the involvement of many toes and so on. The surgery also includes the correction of other co-existing conditions such as bunions.

The recovery option for the surgical wing depends on the extent of the surgical procedure and on your age. However, the hammertoe is treatable.

What are the preventive measures of hammertoe development?

It is always wiser to prevent a disease instead of living with it. Hence, hammertoe too can be preventable, if you can make the necessary changes in your day-to-day activities.

The first important step is the hygiene of your foot. It is a necessary and an important part of the prevention campaign. The requirement of hygiene is followed by the need for the care of your foot. The foot should be examined thoroughly for any changes such as discoloration, pigmentation and so on by yourself, if you are suffering from metabolic diseases such as diabetes.

The next crucial strategy is to select the best fitting footwear for your foot. The important factors to be considered while selecting footwear are low heels, non-pointed shoes, and its adjustable nature. Along with these factors, some of the other important points to be noted during your shoe selection are

  • Do not neglect the normal facts of your legs while choosing your shoes. Generally, our one leg is slightly bigger than the other is, so make sure you fit the shoe to the bigger foot.
  • Always try shoes before you buy instead of sticking with the shoe size alone.
  • When selecting shoes, make sure that you wear a sock while fitting on shoes to avoid any size related issues later.
  • Moreover, stick with low heights, instead of skyrocketing heels.


As we know from the above, the hammertoe develops due to the carelessness of us. In addition, the hammertoe can be treatable and be eliminated with proper treatment and a good follow up. The preventive measures also play a vital role in the prevention of recurrence of hammertoe.

Dr. Paul A. Weiner Podiatric Medicine and SurgeryNeeding more information on Hammertoes and treatments available? Give us a call at (561) 265-5424, or contact us . Find the best podiatry services in Palm Beach County at our Delray Beach Foot Clinic located  here. Needing to schedule an appointment with Dr. Paul Weiner Click here.

 Posted on : July 23, 2014