Hammer Toes

What are Hammer Toes?

Hammer Toes are toes that are curled. We most often use the term Hammer Toe, but there are actually three different deformities:

  • Hammer Toes: The first joint of the toe (proximal interphalangeal joint is bent and sticks up. 
  • Mallet Toes: The second joint of the toe (distal interphalangeal joint) is bent and the tip of the toe points down.
  • Claw Toes: Both joints of the toe are bent. The first joint sticks up and the tip of the toe points down. 

 

Are they always painful? 

Most people who seek care for Hammer Toes have pain either at the top of the first joint or the tip of the toe. Often patients complain of painful corns. Occasionally people with hammer toes also have pain under the ball of the foot. 

Not all Hammer Toes are painful. Occasionally people seek treatment because of appearance. Many people seek treatment because of fear that their toe deformity will get worse and become painful without treatment. 


 

My toes used to look normal. Why do I have Hammer Toes now?

Hammer Toes are a progressive problem for most people. Toes are dynamic, and their appearance and position can change with time and age. This is usually due to one of three processes:

  • Flexor Stabilization: Patients with low arches have unstable feet and their toes grip the ground when walking. Over years this can lead to hammer toes.This is the most common cause of Hammer Toes.
  • Extensor Substitution: Patients with tight calf muscles hyperextend their toes when walking. Over years this can lead to Hammer Toes. 
  • Flexor Substitution: Patients with weak calf muscles develop Hammer Toes from using the toe muscles for stabilizing and pushing off when walking. This is the least common cause of Hammer Toes. 

Hammer Toes are often caused by Bunion deformities. As the great toe pushes on the second toe, over time ï»¿the second toe buckles and becomes hammered. 

Patients with Diabetes are also more likely to develop Hammer Toes. 

How do you diagnose Hammer Toes?

Hammer Toes are easy to see. The tricky part of diagnosis comes in determining how they formed. Knowing how they formed will lead to a more effective treatment. In diagnosis, a Podiatrist will:

  • Examine your foot
  • Watch you walk
  • Measure range of motion of your ankle and foot joints 
  • Take X-rays

How do you treat Hammer Toes?

Hammer Toes may be treated with any of the following:

  • Supportive shoes and orthotics
  • Toe splints
  • Toe pads
  • Shoes with deep toe boxes and soft uppers
  • Surgical correction

Treatment of Hammer Toes varies. When choosing a treatment plan, you and your Podiatrist will consider several factors together:

  • Pain
  • Treatment goals: (prettier toes, less pain, ability to exercise without pain, desire to wear closed-toe shoes, prevention of Diabetic Foot Ulcers, etc)

What surgery options are there?

There are many different surgical procedures to address Hammer Toes. These may include:

  • Fusion of the contracted joint
  • Artificial joint replacement of the contracted joint
  • Muscle and tendon balancing
  • Correction of a bunion (if a bunion is causing the hammer toe)
  • Stabilizing a low arch
  • Loosening a tight Achilles Tendon
  • Removing a corn

For more information on Hammertoes in the Casa Grande, AZ area call Foot and Ankle Center at (520) 836-2962 today!