Hammer Toe: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
Oct 06 , 2021
Tags - What is Hammer Toe
Hammer toe, or sometimes known as mallet toe, is a foot deformity that occurs due to an imbalance in the muscles, tendons or ligaments that hold the toes straight.
Generally speaking, the types of shoes you wear, your foot structure, certain traumas and diseases can contribute to the development of hammer toe.
When a person has hammer toes, the end of their toe bends downwards and the middle joint curls upwards, in a stiff claw-like position.
Typically, hammer toe affects the second toe, but it can be prevalent in other toes too, and is most common in those who have bunions or high arches.
Let’s take a look at the causes, symptoms and treatment for hammer toes in more detail…
What Causes a Hammer Toe?
An abnormal muscle balance in your toes can result in more pressure placed on the tendons and joints, resulting in a hammer toe.
This can be caused by a few things:
- Genetics: the foot type you were born with can lead you to develop this deformity. Flat feet can lead to hammer toes as the foot tries to stabilise itself against fallen arches, whereas feet with high arches can develop hammer toes as the tendons overpower the flexors.
- Ill-fitted shoes: shoes that do not fit properly, i.e. too tight or too high, will have little arch support. A poor shoe choice can cause toes to bend upwards, muscles in the toe to tighten and become shorter, causing it to stay in the bent position.
- Trauma: an injury where you stub, jam or break your toe can make it more likely to develop hammer toe
Some other factors that can increase your chances of hammer toe are diabetes, arthritis and age.
Symptoms of Hammer Toes
The most common symptoms and identifiable characteristics of hammer toe include:
- Toe pointed upwards at the joint
- Corns and calluses at the top of the affected joint
- Toe pain when wearing shoes
- Inflammation, swelling and redness at the affected joint
- Restricted movement of the toe
- The toe cannot lay flat
Overtime, these symptoms can become worse, especially if you don’t wear supportive shoes.
Treatments for Hammer Toes
Luckily, you can correct hammer toe caused by inappropriate footwear by wearing properly-fitted shoes.
For instance, if you have high arches that have caused the deformity, wearing toe pads or special insoles can help by shifting your toe’s position when inside shoes, resulting in pain relief and correcting the foot’s appearance.
Secondly, certain exercises can be done to keep the joints in the toe as flexible as possible. For example, manually moving and stretching your toe gently with your hands will help. You can also do some exercises like picking up small objects with your toes.
In severe cases, where toes cannot be treated with over the counter cushions or pads, you may need to get the hammer toe surgically removed, especially if you cannot flex your toe at all.
In this instance, surgery will reposition the toe by removing the deformed bone and realigning the joints and tendons.
Overall, wearing the right size shoe is the most important thing you can do to help relieve symptoms, so avoid shoes that are too tight or have narrow toe boxes.
In addition, you should avoid wearing high heels to reduce the pressure placed on the toes and wear shoes with soft insoles.
However, when you first start noticing symptoms, ensure you contact your doctor to prevent the deformity from getting worse.
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