Identifying and Treating Hammertoes

Nov 15, 2021

If you have a toe which is bent abnormally, you may have something called hammertoe. What is a hammertoe? A hammertoe is a deformity of one or two joints in your 2nd, 3rd or 4th toes. A hammertoe can be painful.

Causes of a hammertoe include:

  • Tight-fitting shoes – especially in the toe area
  • Imbalance in the ligaments of the toes – will pull to one side
  • Injury – can cause a bend
  • High heels – can put pressure on toes
  • Toe length – the longer the toe, the more likely it will bend
  • Certain diseases – diabetes and arthritis can cause the bend
  • Flat feet – can contribute to the bend

There are 2 basic types of a hammertoe. One is a rigid hammertoe where the toe is stiff and cannot bend. This type more than likely will need surgery to be fixed. The 2nd is a flexible hammertoe. It, like its name, can bend and can usually be treated short of surgery.

Ways to avoid a hammertoe include:

  • Avoid high heels and footwear with tight toe areas
  • When buying footwear, measure your feet at the end of the day when they are a bit swollen from walking

Symptoms include:

  • Redness, pain and swelling in the toe area
  • Corns and calluses form where the toes meet
  • Affected toe stiffens and cannot be bent
  • Pain in the ball of the foot

Treatments for a hammertoe vary and will likely include an x-ray by your podiatrist to determine how the bones line up and if something else is contributing to the bend. Your podiatrist may recommend a roomier shoe, custom made orthotics to relieve pressure, pads to relieve pressure and/or toe exercises designed to stretch the toes, ligaments and muscles. If these do not work, surgery may be needed to relieve the pressure on the bent toe joints.

If you believe you have or are developing hammertoe or have any other concerns about your feet, make an appointment with us at Foot and Ankle Specialists of Central PA and our doctors Terry H. Clarke and Karen M. Leonard will diagnose you and treat you appropriately.  We are located at 4 Flowers Drive, Suite 2, Mechanicsburg, PA, 17050. Our phone number is 717-620-8225.