Hammertoes are toes that are, well, shaped like little hammers. They have an irregular bend in one or both of the joints, so the toes curl upward and press against your shoes.
Hammertoes may be mild deformities at first, but they progressively worsen with time. This is why you should reach out to a specialist, like ours at Maryland Orthopedic Specialists, when you see symptoms of hammertoe.
We are fortunate to have board-certified foot and ankle specialist Gary Feldman, DPM, FACFAS, on staff. Here’s what he’d like you to know about hammertoes and when you should seek treatment.
Hammertoe is most often the result of a muscle-tendon imbalance. Structural or neurological changes in your foot that occur over time cause this imbalance.
If you’re prone to hammertoes, their development may speed up if you wear shoes that are too tight and cramp your toes. Sometimes, trauma to a toe leads to the condition, and in some people, hammertoes are inherited.
Hammertoes are usually visibly apparent with their unusual contracted shape. They often cause other symptoms like:
In severe cases of hammertoe, open sores develop.
Hammertoes start out mild and manageable, but if not treated, they become more and more rigid. If treated early, noninvasive strategies manage any symptoms and slow progression.
But without treatment, hammertoes become more rigid and don’t respond to nonsurgical treatment.
One of the first treatments for hammertoe is a simple change in footwear. Skip the fashionable shoes with pointed toes or high heels. These force your toes against the front of your shoes. Instead, choose shoes that have a roomy toe box and that have heels no higher than 2 inches.
You may also benefit from customized orthotics. You place these in your shoes to make up for muscle and tendon imbalances. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ease any pain or inflammation. Corticosteroid injections can help with pain, too.
We may also recommend padding any corns or calluses that have developed. Avoid medicated versions you can buy in the drugstore, though, as they contain potentially harmful ingredients.
You may benefit from a splint or strap to realign a bent hammertoe.
We recommend surgery only when your hammertoe has become rigid and painful enough to interfere with day-to-day activities. If an open sore develops, you may also have hammertoe that’s progressed to the point of needing surgical realignment.
If you have symptoms of hammertoe, make an appointment at Maryland Orthopedic Specialists for a definitive diagnosis. We do a review of your symptoms and a physical exam of your foot. We manipulate your toes and evaluate the contracture to determine the best course of treatment.
Hammertoe often coexists with other foot problems that cause pain while wearing shoes and walking. We can help you with any of these foot concerns as well.
Call our Bethesda or Germantown, Maryland, office at 301-515-0900 or set up an appointment here to get a comprehensive evaluation.