Hammer toes are a painful condition of the feet. They are often experienced by women who wear high-heels or narrow shoes.
These types of shoes place pressure on the toes and push them toward the front of the shoe. This causes the middle joint of the toes to bend. When this condition occurs in the top joint of the toes (nearest the toenail) rather than the middle joint, it is known as mallet toe.
Hammer Toe Symptoms
An obvious, visible sign of hammer toe or mallet toe is an abnormal bend in the joint of the toe. It can occur in just one of the toes, or multiple toes. It can be painful to move the toes that are affected, and corns or calluses can develop there.
Hammer Toe Causes
Many different factors can cause hammer toe. A frequent culprit is the wearing of high heels or other shoes that are too small or particularly narrow through the toe box. When the toes are forced into a small space, they can become curled. If the toes are placed into this position repeatedly, the curling can become permanent.
If you have broken a toe or stubbed a toe, you are more likely to develop hammer toe in that toe later on. You are also more likely to develop hammer toe if you have nerve damage in your feet. Nerve damage can be caused by medical conditions such as stroke or diabetes. Rheumatoid arthritis is another condition which can cause a variety of foot deformities, including hammer toes.
Hammer Toe Risk Factors
There are a few things that increase the risk of getting hammer toe or mallet toe, including:
1. Age – The likelihood of developing hammer toe or mallet toe increases with age.
2. Gender – Females develop hammer toe and mallet toe more often than males.
3. Toe length –You are more likely to develop hammer toe or mallet toe in your second toe if your second toe is longer than your big toe.
Hammer Toe Complications
Early in the process of getting a hammer toe, the toe might still be fairly flexible. You can probably stretch the toe and make it lay flat if you are wearing roomy shoes.
Over time, though, the toe’s tendons often get tighter and contract. Then it becomes more difficult to stretch the toe out, regardless of whether you are wearing shoes. The toe might get very stiff and stay that way. Calluses or corns can develop as a result of the toe rubbing against your shoes.
Hammer Toe Treatment
If you have hammer toes, you should visit your doctor. He/She will examine your feet, and might also take x-rays. The course of treatment varies depending upon how far your hammer toe has progressed.
If it is still fairly flexible, you should wear better shoes that offer more space in the toe box coupled with custom arch supports. This will ensure that your feet are properly supported and minimize the progression of the hammer toe.
In addition, you can do some at-home exercises to strengthen and stretch your toes. Try some simple activities like picking up a towel or marbles off the floor using your toes.
If these steps do not relieve your pain, talk with your doctor. He/She might recommend surgical treatment. Options include a surgery that releases the tendon so the toe can lay flat again, as well as reducing the length of the bone in order to straighten the toe.
If you suffer from hammer toes that make your feet hurt, visit Boyne Clinic. We can provide you with a variety of options, like customized insoles.
We can also help with gait related hammer toe development, by supporting your feet with a custom arch support. The proper shoe, combined with the proper support, will help to relieve your pain.