Hammertoes are toes that have become unnaturally bent or misshapen, creating a curved shape similar to the claw of a hammer. The curved shape develops when the ligaments and tendons of the toe pull the tip of the toe downward, usually as a result of long-term pressure against the toe from ill-fitting shoes or from an inherited foot shape. Hammertoes also are more common among people with circulatory or nervous system disorders, and they can develop in any of the toes except the big toe. Many people with hammertoes also develop painful corns on the top surface of the toe where the curved portion rubs against the interior of a shoe.
When formation begins, hammertoes remain somewhat flexible, and custom orthotics often provide the support and gentle stretching needed to return the toe to a normal position. Orthotics can also relieve pressure on the top surface of the toe so corns are alleviated. Nighttime splints and ongoing stretching exercises also may be used to coax the toe into a normal shape and to keep the toe flexible. As hammertoes progress, flexibility is lost and surgery may be required to reposition the tendons and ligaments and return the toe to its normal position. Joint fusion surgery may be required in very advanced cases to prevent pain when walking.
One of the best ways to prevent hammertoes from developing is to see a podiatrist at the first signs of toe or foot pain or development of a corn or recurrent blister on the toe. Seeing the doctor promptly can help prevent the later, inflexible stage that can have an impact on gait and foot shape, causing long-term pain and interfering with mobility. Wearing shoes that fit and provide ample support and room in the toes and avoiding wearing high heels can also help prevent hammertoe formation, and stretching exercises can strengthen the ligaments, tendons, and muscles that support the toes.
At The Center for Foot Disorders, we accept most major insurance plans. Here is a short-list of just some of the most popular plans we accept. Please contact our office if you do not see your insurance provider listed.
"Excellent doctor. He is very caring and soft spoken with his patients. His office staff always accommodate you on a short notice."