What is hammer toe?
In a hammer toe, the deformity usually exists in one toe where the base of the toe points upward and the end of the toe points down. The second toe is usually affected but all of the lesser toes can be affected.
What causes hammer toe?
Hammer toes can be due to a number of things. Several factors are known to increase the risk of developing hammer toes:
- some people are just structurally prone to develop hammer toes (hereditary)
- tight footwear is an important factor in the cause of hammer toes as well as providing the pressure that causes the symptoms
- weaker small muscles in the foot may also play a role.
A number of approaches can be undertaken to manage a hammer toe.
It is important that any footwear advice is followed. The correct amount of space in the toe box will allow room for the toes to function without excessive pressure.
If a corn is present, this will need to be treated.
If the toe is still flexible, it may be possible to use splints or tape to try and correct the toe.
Without correctly fitting footwear, this is often unsuccessful.
Padding is often used to get pressure off the toe to help the symptoms.
If conservative treatment is unsuccessful at helping the symptoms, surgery is often a good option. This is the only way to totally correct a toe deformity.
Unfortunately, lesser toe deformities are progressive but a lot can be done to dramatically reduce the symptoms and slow down its progression. Surgical intervention is the only way to correct the deformity.