How is Hammertoe Treated? - Suffolk Foot and Ankle

How is Hammertoe Treated?

How is Hammertoe Treated?

Hammertoe is a deformity of the toe(s) where the toe curls downward, rather than points straight ahead. This deformity is most often found on the second or third toe, but it can occur on any toe.

While a few people are born with this defect, most cases develop because of tight, pointy shoes, wearing ill-fitting shoes, or because of arthritis.

While hammertoe is one of the most common deformities, the good news is that nearly all cases can be successfully treated.

How Does Hammertoe Form?

Each toe contains two joints, which allow the toe to bend at the bottom and the middle. When the middle joint stays bent downward or permanently flexed, this deformity is called hammertoe.

Other causes of hammertoe include:

  • Pressure because of bunions
  • A very high foot arch
  • Arthritis
  • Trauma to the toe
  •  Ill-fitting shoes
  • Tight tendons or ligaments within the foot

Nerve damage or a spinal cord injury might cause all the toes to curl downward. Genetics sometimes play a role, and it can run in families.

Identifying Hammertoe

While hammertoe is often quite visible when a person removes their shoes and socks, many podiatrists will discover this problem through an exam. Some people seem to believe that this is a temporary problem.

Corns and calluses often form on the top of the affected toe since they are rubbing on the upper portion of the shoe, while other experience a burning sensation or pain when wearing any type of enclosed shoe.

Hammertoe is a progressive deformity, becoming worse with time if not promptly treated. Continued wearing of ill-fitting shoes could cause the hammertoe to require surgery to release the affected tendons.

Treatment for Hammertoe

When caught early enough that the toe is still flexible, your podiatrist may recommend a “foot exercise” program which could include tasks such as

  •   Stretching the toe gently several times a day using your fingers
  •   Picking up marbles from the floor using your toes
  •   Bunching up a towel with your toes, keeping the heel on the floor

Your podiatrist might also create a special shoe insert to prevent further damage and reduce pain.

Severe Cases of Hammertoe

When the affected toe can no longer be moved, surgery might be necessary.

This surgical procedure will reposition the toe, realign the tendons, and possibly even remove a deformed bone. Surgery can often be performed on an outpatient basis.

Prevention of Hammertoe

Prevention is far better than any treatment plan. You can prevent hammertoe by doing the following:

  • Wear shoes that fit comfortably
  • Make sure all shoes have proper arch support
  • Low heels or flats are best
  • Shoes that have laces or straps that are adjustable are good choices
  • Purchase shoes with enough room for all your toes. Shoes should always accommodate the longest toe, which may not be the big toe.

The Bottom Line

Many cases of hammertoe can be avoided by following the guidelines above.

If you develop hammertoe, see a podiatrist early to avoid surgery.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of people develop hammertoe, so don’t be embarrassed. See your podiatrist early to avoid surgery.

If you have questions about your feet or if you believe you have developed hammertoe, call our office at (631) 604 4948 for an appointment. The doctors at Suffolk Foot and Ankle will be happy to answer all your questions and help you find relief. Call us today.


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