What is a hammertoe?

A hammer toe is a deformity in the foot that causes the toe to curl or bend downward instead of pointing forward. It is called a hammer toe because the downward bend of the middle joint in the toe resembles a hammer. Most often affecting the second or third toe, hammertoes can affect any of the toes on the foot. Hammertoes usually start out as mild deformities, but the abnormal bending can eventually put pressure of the toe when wearing shoes. Over time, the toe may become hard to move or painful and can develop calluses, blisters or corns. The experts at BICMD provide a secure telemedicine platform and can diagnose hammertoes and offer the best individual treatment options for your foot condition. They have extensive experience in helping patients decide the best treatment for their hammer toe.

What causes hammertoe?

The toes have two joints that allow it to bend at the middle and the bottom. The muscles in the toes work in pairs to bend and straighten the toes. If the toes are bent and held in place long enough, the muscles tighten and lose their ability to straighten out. A hammer toe, sometimes called mallet toe can be caused by the following:

  • Shoes that do not fit, pinch the toes or are too tight. Heels with pointy toes can cause severe pressure on the toes.
  • Arthritis
  • An unusually high arch of the foot
  • Tightened tendons or ligaments in the foot
  • Spinal cord or peripheral nerve damage
  • Trauma to the toe such as a severe stub, jam or break
  • Abnormal balance of the muscles in the toe

What are common symptoms of hammertoe?

The most common symptom of hammertoes is a physical deformity that shows the toe pointing downward. Other common symptoms may include:

  • Blister on the top of the toe from rubbing on a shoe
  • Corns or calluses also caused from rubbing on the inside of a shoe
  • Pain in the toes
  • Pain that makes it difficult to wear shoes
  • Inflammation, burning or redness
  • In extreme cases – open sores caused by rubbing the inside of shoes or footwear

How are hammertoes diagnosed?

The foot and ankle experts at BICMD can diagnose hammertoes through their telemedicine platform. They will take a patient history and obtain pictures of the foot. An x-ray can help the specialist to further evaluate the bones of the toe and to identify the extent of the deformity. Once a proper diagnosis is made, our “best in class” physicians can help you determine the best treatment for your hammertoes.

What is the treatment for hammertoe?

Non-Surgical Hammertoe Treatment:

Our experts may suggest several conservative measures to treat hammer toe and often recommend the following:

  • Switch to footwear with a soft, roomy toe box
  • Select footwear that extends a half-inch beyond your longest toe
  • Discontinue wearing pointed shoes, especially high heels that pinch the toes
  • Gentle toe massage can relieve pain
  • Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen
  • Ice can help decrease swelling and relieve pain
  • Padding that is made for hammertoes and can protect them from rubbing on a shoe
  • Foot exercises and physical therapy

Surgical treatment:

Surgical treatment may become necessary if conservative measures fail to relieve pain and if symptoms persist. Surgical treatment for hammertoe may include:

  • Tendon release – allows the toe to lay flat
  • Proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint fusion – Straightens the toe surgically and fuses the two bones of the toe together
  • Joint resection – removes a tiny piece of bone and cutting the tendons and ligaments, allowing the toe to lay straight with the use of rods or pins which are removed later.

For more information about hammertoes, mallet toe or continuing foot or toe pain, and if you would like to receive an expert consultation, please contact our specialists, by clicking on “Connect With a Doctor.” You will be connected to one of our orthopedic telemedicine experts through our state-of-the-art telemedicine platform.