What are hammertoes?
Hammertoes are deformities that cause toes to bend and assume a claw-like shape. They usually occur in people whose toes are very long and out of proportion with the rest of the foot, resulting in shoes that don’t fit properly. In addition to ill-fitting shoes, an inherited foot shape can also contribute to hammer ties. Over time, the bent position of the toe causes the ligaments and tendons that support the toe to become stiff and shorten, pulling the toe into its downward position, so it becomes more difficult to correct.
What symptoms can hammer toes cause?
Because hammer toes are bent, they can cause considerable pain when wearing shoes. People who have hammer toes also frequently develop corns on the top of the toes where the bent portion rubs against shoes, causing painful friction that spurs the development of corns.
How are hammer toes treated?
Hammer toes can be addressed nonsurgically with the use of custom orthotics designed to support the toe in a natural position and to address the discrepancy in the ratio between the toe and arch lengths so shoes fit better and toe crowding and bending are avoided. Splints may also be worn at night to help stretch the toe and coax it into a more natural position. Stretching exercises can also help prevent the toe from becoming stiff. Often, though, hammer toes require surgery to completely correct the position of the joint and to resolve painful symptoms. In this surgery, the toe can be shortened, and the ligaments can be repositioned, so the toe maintains its natural shape, and the bend is eliminated. Tiny pins or screws are often used during surgery to help support the new position and shape of the toe. Hammer toe surgery is relatively straightforward, and patients can expect a quick recovery.