A Hammer toes
is a deformity of the middle joint of a toe, producing a clenched, clawlike appearance in the
affected digit. The tendons in the toe become abnormally contracted, causing the toe to bend downward, which, in turn, forces the joint to protrude upward. A mallet toe is a deformity in which the
end joint of a toe becomes bent downward, so that the toe curls underneath itself. In either case the affected joints are stiff, and often the toe cannot be straightened out. Constant rubbing against
shoes may furthermore cause a painful corn (a round patch of rough, thickened, calloused skin) to develop over the joint or at the tip of the affected toe. Hammer and mallet toes may occur in any
toe, although the second toe is the most common site. These deformities are often painful and limit the toe?s range of motion-sometimes requiring surgery.
Hammer toe is most often caused by wearing compressive shoes. It might also be caused by the pressure from a bunion. A bunion is a corn on the top of a toe and a callus on the sole of the foot
develop which makes walking painful. A high foot arch may also develop.
People who have painful hammertoes visit their podiatrist because their affected toe is either rubbing on the end their shoe (signaling a contracted flexor tendon), rubbing on the top of their shoe
(signaling a contracted extensor tendon), or rubbing on another toe and causing a painful buildup of thick skin, known as a corn.
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
The treatment options vary with the type and severity of each hammertoe, although identifying the deformity early in its development is important to avoid surgery. Podiatric medical attention should
be sought at the first indication of pain and discomfort because, if left untreated, hammertoes tend to become rigid, making a nonsurgical treatment less of an option. Your podiatric physician
will examine and X-ray the affected area and recommend a treatment plan specific to your
There are generally two methods surgeons use to correct hammer toes, they are joint resection (arthroplasty) or bone mending (fusion), and the location where this is performed on the toe depends on
where the toe is buckled. Its important to recognize that most of the surgical work involved the joints of the toe, not the joint of the ball of the foot. Sometimes a toe relocation procedure is
needed when the joint of the ball of the foot is malaligned (subluxed or dislocated).