Hammertoe is a foot deformity that occurs most often in women who wear high heels or shoes with a narrow toe box. These types of footwear may force your toes against the front of the shoe, causing an unnatural bending. Relieving the pain and pressure of hammertoe may involve changing your footwear and wearing shoe inserts such as orthotics. If you have a more severe case of hammertoe, you may need surgery to experience relief.
What Are Hammertoes?
A hammertoe occurs from a muscle and ligament imbalance around the toe joint which causes the middle joint of the toe to bend and become stuck in this position. The most common complaint with hammertoes is rubbing and irritation on the top of the bent toe, which in turn may create calluses and corns on the affected toe.
It can happen to any toe. Women are more likely to get pain associated with hammertoes than men because of the types of shoes they wear. There are two types of hammertoes:
- Flexible hammertoes. If the toe still can be moved at the joint, it's a flexible hammertoe. That's good, because this is an earlier, milder form of the problem. There may be several treatment options.
- Rigid hammertoes. If the tendons in the toe become rigid, they press the joint out of alignment. At this stage, the toe can't be moved. It usually means that surgery is needed.
What Causes Hammertoes?
The muscles of each toe work in pairs. When the toe muscles get out of balance, a hammertoe can form. Muscle imbalance puts a lot of pressure on the toe's tendons and joints. This pressure forces the toe into a hammerhead shape. How do the toe muscles get out of balance? There are three main reasons:
- Genes: You may have inherited a tendency to develop hammertoes because your feet are somewhat unstable -- they may be flat or have a high arch.
- Injury to the toe: Poorly fitting shoes are the main culprits. If shoes are too tight, too short, or too pointy, they push the toes out of balance. Pointy, high-heeled shoes put severe pressure on the toes.
Hammertoes can be a serious problem in people with diabetes or poor circulation. People with these conditions should see Dr. Raymond A. DiPretoro, Jr., DPM at one of our three convenient locations in Newark, Wilmington or Glasgow, Delaware @ (302) 623-4250 at the first sign of a hammertoe.