A #LINK is a common and painful deformity in the three middle toes where they appear to always be bent. Causes of hammer toes include shoes that don?t fit properly, foot injuries, bunions and
rheumatoid arthritis. Having toe joints sticking out can cause them to rub and a person may walk differently, risking other hammertoe
foot conditions, such as metatarsalgia. Hammer toes can be a serious problem in people with diabetes or poor circulation.
Hammer toes are most frequently caused by a muscle - tendon imbalance in the foot, and are seen both in adults and children. Foot muscles work in pairs to straighten and bend the toes. If your foot
has a biomechanical defect, the muscles tighten and the tendons shorten. Eventually, the toe muscles can?t straighten the toe, even when barefoot. Contributing factors are poor choices in footwear,
arthritis, or trauma.
The symptoms of hammertoe include a curling toe, pain or discomfort in the toes and ball of the foot or the front of the leg, especially when toes are stretched downward. Thickening of the skin above
or below the affected toe with the formation of corns or calluses. Difficulty finding shoes that fit well. In its early stages, hammertoe is not obvious. Frequently, hammertoe does not cause any
symptoms except for the claw-like toe shape.
Although hammertoes are readily apparent, to arrive at a diagnosis the foot and ankle surgeon will obtain a thorough history of your symptoms and examine your foot. During the physical examination,
the doctor may attempt to reproduce your symptoms by manipulating your foot and will study the contractures of the toes. In addition, the foot and ankle surgeon may take x-rays to determine the
degree of the deformities and assess any changes that may have occurred.
Non Surgical Treatment
Early on, when a hammertoe first starts and is still flexible, here are some ways it might be treated. Your healthcare provider may splint or tape the toe into the correct, normal position. You can
use your fingers to stretch your toes and toe joints toward a more normal position. Exercise your toes by trying to pick up marbles with them or by wadding up a towel on the floor with your toes.
Padding may be used to change where your weight falls when you walk on the foot.
In more advanced cases of hammer toe, or when the accompanying pain cannot be relieved by conservative treatment, surgery may be required. Different types of surgical procedures are performed to
correct hammer toe, depending on the location and extent of the problem. Surgical treatment is generally effective for both flexible and fixed (rigid) forms of hammer toe. Recurrence following
surgery may develop in persons with flexible hammer toe, particularly if they resume wearing poorly-fitted shoes after the deformity is corrected.
Although the feet naturally change over time, and abnormalities like hammertoes may be hereditary for some patients, steps may be taken to prevent their development in the first place. Just as better
fitting shoes are a treatment, they are also a preventative measure for hammertoes. In addition, your podiatrist may suggest orthotics to improve the biomechanics of your feet in an effort to prevent
the development of hammertoes or other abnormalities. Calf stretching and other exercises may also be used to reverse or treat muscle imbalances that could eventually lead to hammertoe development.