If you sneak a peek at your feet and notice that your toes are crossed, bent, or just pointing at an odd angle, you probably suffer from a hammertoes
. Toes that are scrunched up inside tight shoes or pressed against the toe box of the shoe can bend at the joints and
stay that way - resulting in a hammertoe. A hammertoe is a contracture of the toe at one of the two joints in the toe. Due to the pull of the tendons, the joints become more rigid over time. The toe
is bent up at the joint and does not straighten out.
Certain risk factors increase your likelihood of developing a hammertoe. These include a family history of hammertoes, wearing tight or pointy-toed shoes, wearing shoes that are too small, having
calluses, bunions, or corns (thickened layers of skin caused by prolonged/repeated friction) Wearing shoes that are too small can force the joint of Hammer toes
your toes into a dislocated position. This makes it impossible for your muscles to stretch out.
Over time, the practice of wearing improperly fitting shoes increases your risk of developing hammertoes, blisters, bunions, and corns.
Patients with hammer toe(s) may develop pain on the top of the toe(s), tip of the toe, and/or on the ball of the foot. Excessive pressure from shoes may result in the formation of a hardened portion
of skin (corn or callus) on the knuckle and/or ball of the foot. Some people may not recognize that they have a hammer toe, rather they identity the excess skin build-up of a corn.The toe(s) may
become irritated, red, warm, and/or swollen. The pain may be dull and mild or severe and sharp. Pain is often made worse by shoes, especially shoes that crowd the toes. While some hammer toes may
result in significant pain, others may not be painful at all. Painful toes can prevent you from wearing stylish shoes.
Most health care professionals can diagnose hammertoe simply by examining your toes and feet. X-rays of the feet are not needed to diagnose hammertoe, but they may be useful to look for signs of some
types of arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis) or other disorders that can cause hammertoe. If the deformed toe is very painful, your doctor may recommend that you have a fluid sample withdrawn
from the joint with a needle so the fluid can be checked for signs of infection or gout (arthritis from crystal deposits).
Non Surgical Treatment
Apply a commercial, nonmedicated hammertoe pad around the bony prominence of the hammertoe. This will decrease pressure on the area. Wear a shoe with a deep toe box. If the hammertoe becomes inflamed
and painful, apply ice packs several times a day to reduce swelling. Avoid heels more than two inches tall. A loose-fitting pair of shoes can also help protect the foot while reducing pressure on the
affected toe, making walking a little easier until a visit to your podiatrist can be arranged. It is important to remember that, while this treatment will make the hammertoe feel better, it does not
cure the condition. A trip to the podiatric physician?s office will be necessary to repair the toe to allow for normal foot function. Avoid wearing shoes that are too tight or narrow. Children should
have their shoes properly fitted on a regular basis, as their feet can often outgrow their shoes rapidly. See your podiatric physician if pain persists.
In advanced cases in which the toe has become stiff and permanently bent, the toe can be straightened with surgery. One type of surgery involves removing a small section of the toe bone to allow the
toe to lie flat. Surgery for hammertoe usually is classified as a cosmetic procedure. Cosmetic foot surgeries sometimes result in complications such as pain or numbness, so it's better to treat the
problem with a shoe that fits properly.
Early Development. The first year of life is important for foot development. Parents should cover their babies' feet loosely, allowing plenty of opportunity for kicking and exercise. Change the
child's position frequently. Children generally start to walk at 10 - 18 months. They should not be forced to start walking early. Wearing just socks or going barefoot indoors helps the foot develop
normally and strongly and allows the toes to grasp. Going barefoot outside, however, increases the risk for injury and other conditions, such as plantar warts. Children should wear shoes that are
light and flexible, and since their feet tend to perspire, their shoes should be made of materials that breathe. Replace footwear every few months as the child's feet grow. Footwear should never be
handed down. Protect children's feet if they participate in high-impact sports.