What are Hammertoes?

Hammertoes are a deformity of the second, third, fourth, or fifth toes where the toe is bent at the middle joint, causing it to resemble a hammer. This condition can lead to discomfort and pain because the toe’s abnormal positioning often results in rubbing against footwear and pressure on the toe. The condition can be caused by a muscle imbalance, which puts pressure on the tendons and joints in the toe, leading it to a bent position. Other contributing factors include wearing shoes that don’t fit properly, genetics, arthritis, or injuries. Hammertoes can be flexible initially but may become rigid and require surgery if left untreated.

Signs & Symptoms

  • A toe that bends downward at the middle joint.
  • Pain or discomfort in the affected toe, especially when wearing shoes or walking.
  • Corns or calluses forming on the top of the middle joint of the toe or on the sole of the foot, as a result of friction.
  • Inflammation, redness, or a burning sensation in the affected toe.
  • Restricted or painful motion of the toe joint.
  • Difficulty fitting into shoes due to the deformity.

Hammertoes FAQ

Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent hammertoes entirely. However, there are things you can do to lower your risk. Dr. Hausman recommends:

  • Wearing shoes with plenty of toe room
  • Avoiding high heels
  • Wearing shoes with straps or laces

You should also double check your shoe size. As you get older, the width of your foot changes. If your shoes are too tight or they squeeze your foot, you’re more likely to experience a hammertoe.

To diagnose hammertoe or mallet toe, Dr. Hausman carefully examines your feet and toes. He might also ask you to stand up, sit down, and walk around the exam room to observe your gait and posture. Dr. Hausman also orders a series of X-rays to get a closer look at the bones and joints in your feet and toes.

Treatment for hammertoes depends on the severity of the symptoms you’re experiencing. Usually, Dr. Hausman recommends healthy lifestyle changes such as wearing roomier, more comfortable shoes or using heel pads or inserts. He might also recommend at-home exercises like lifting marbles with your toes to strengthen and stretch out your toe muscles. 

If these measures don’t ease your symptoms, surgical intervention may be necessary. During hammertoe surgery, Dr. Hausman carefully releases the tendon preventing your toe from lying flat. He might also remove a piece of bone to help straighten your toe. 

Don’t let hammertoes prevent you from living a mobile, active lifestyle. Request an appointment with Lionel G. Hausman, DPM, today by calling the office or clicking the online scheduling tool.