A hammertoe is a foot deformity that occurs due to an imbalance in the muscles, tendons, or ligaments that normally hold the toe straight. These occur in the second, third, or fourth toes. Hammertoes are flexible initially and can be corrected with simple measures. But if left untreated they can become fixed and require surgery. They are usually the result of wearing shoes that don’t fit properly, foot structure, or trauma.
At our five Foot & Ankle Clinics of Utah locations, we help patients address their hammertoes and the pain they cause.
What is a hammertoe?
Clinically known as a contracture of the joint, hammertoes occur at the first joint of the toe. The bending makes the toe appear as if it is perpetually contracted. Hammertoes can form on any toe but are more typical in the middle three toes.
Flexible hammertoes are still developing, so the joint is still movable. These are more easily treated. Rigid hammertoes are more developed and more serious. In rigid hammertoes the tendons have become tight and the joint is now immobile. Rigid hammertoes typically will require surgery.
What causes a hammertoe to develop?
When there is abnormal balance in the muscles of the toes, a hammertoe can develop. These balance issues create increased pressure on the tendons and joints, leading to contracture.
Hammertoes can follow trauma to the toe or foot. They have a genetic component. They are common with arthritis sufferers. And they can occur in women who wear shoes with small, tight toe boxes, which squeeze the toes.
If your toe is still flexible, we may have you change to roomier, more comfortable footwear. We’ll probably also have you wear orthotics or pads in your shoes.
Various exercises for your toes, things such as picking up marbles with your toes, can help to stretch and strengthen your toe muscles.
If these conservative approaches don’t work, our Foot & Ankle Clinic board-certified foot surgeons can perform a surgical procedure to release the tendon that’s preventing your toe from lying flat. In some cases, they may also remove a piece of bone to straighten your toe.
If you have the chronic pain caused by a hammertoe, please give us a call at any of our five locations in American Fork (801), 763-3885; Payson, (801) 765-1718; Springville (801) 491-3668; and Orem (two locations, (801) 226-2421 or (801) 765-1718).