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Understanding Hammertoe: Causes, Symptoms, and Corrective Measures

Dr. Eman Elmi
January 7, 2024
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As human beings, we spend so much time on our feet. Whether we’re working, exercising, or just moving from place to place, we rely heavily on our feet. This is exactly why physical symptoms caused by hammertoe can be so uncomfortable. 

Hammertoe is a foot deformity that causes the toes to turn inwards towards one another. This may cause the toe to stick up in the air, appearing like a hammer. A healthy toe should lay flat rather than sticking up. Over time, this can cause significant pain, swelling, and calluses. It is believed that roughly 3% of adults have a hammertoe.

Without proper treatment, hammertoe can get worse, making it difficult to do everyday activities. This article will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for hammertoe. 

What to Know Before Considering Hammertoe Surgery

Hammertoe surgery is available for those who need it. However, in most cases, hammertoe surgery may be avoidable. Surgery should only be considered after less invasive forms of treatment are explored. 

Before choosing a treatment option, it is helpful to educate yourself about the causes, types, and symptoms of hammertoe. Let’s take a closer look.

Causes of Hammertoe

Women are shown to be more likely to have hammertoes than men. Narrow, uncomfortable shoes such as high heels can create a myriad of foot health issues, including hammertoe. This is due to the pressure they place on their toes and joints. 

It is also possible for children to develop hammertoes if they wear shoes that are too small for their growing feet. 

Some people may also be predisposed toward developing joint deformities like hammertoe. Those born with flat feet may struggle with balance and stability, potentially leading to hammertoes. 

Another reason someone may develop hammertoes is if they suffer from a neuromuscular disease like diabetes. Due to poor blood flow or neuropathy, excess pressure on the feet may lead to hammertoes. 

Types of Hammertoe

There are three main types of hammertoes. Over time, a hammertoe may change types. The three types of hammertoes include:

  • Flexible Hammertoe: This is the early stage of a hammertoe. At this stage, mobility is still intact. However, without proper care, issues may progress quickly.
  • Semi-rigid Hammertoe: This type of hammertoe occurs when the joints begin to get stiff. Mobility becomes less, and pain or swelling may occur.
  • Rigid Hammertoe: At this point, the hammertoe has restricted mobility. The tendons and soft tissues have become very tight, causing pain, swelling, and calluses. 

Symptoms of Hammertoe

Symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the condition. Here are some of the most common symptoms of hammertoe:

  • Discomfort or pain in the toe or foot that doesn’t go away with rest or medication 
  • Contracture in the toe joints
  • Swelling, redness, and calluses

How to Fix Hammertoe

The best way to treat hammertoe symptoms is by talking to your doctor. How to fix hammertoe deformities starts by discussing your specific condition with a trained professional. Possible treatments for hammertoes include:

  • Orthotic devices: Custom shoe inserts are a great way to manage symptoms and provide balance
  • Pain relieving medication: Over-the-counter medication or cortisone shots can help lessen pain and discomfort
  • Added padding into the shoes: Similarly to orthotic devices, adding padding around the hammertoe can help to lessen pressure on the foot
  • Surgery: When less invasive solutions don’t help, surgery is an option. Hammertoe surgery will remove the bony prominence caused by the hammertoe and help to realign the joint. 

Diagnose and Treat Your Hammertoe at Diablo Foot & Ankle

Are you suffering from pain or discomfort in your feet or toes? Are you unsure what’s causing it? It’s possible that you have a hammertoe. If so, Diablo Foot & Ankle is here to help!2

At Diablo Foot & Ankle, we will examine your foot, make a diagnosis, and start a treatment plan immediately. Without proper treatment, hammertoe may cause high levels of pain and swelling. Don’t wait for symptoms to worsen; contact Diablo Foot & Ankle today!

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