Hammer Toe: Causes, Diagnosis, Common Treatments
A hammer toe is a deformity that can affect one or more of a person’s four smallest toes boney sections. The joint of toes can develop a bend between segment one and two. This leaves the toe’s tips pointed downwards like a claw or a hammer. The second toe tends to be the one that is most often affect by the hammer toe deformity.
Usually harmless and painless, hammer toe doesn’t cause any long-term problems beyond making it more difficult to find shoes that fit comfortably.
Causes Of Hammer Toes
Wearing tight, high-healed or ill-fitting shoes for long periods of time are some of the most common reasons that people develop hammer toes. Wearing ill-fitting shoes can crowd the toes and put pressure on the toe joints. This can cause the toe’s tip to curl and face downward. The second toe is more susceptible to this condition because it’s longer than the big toe. People with flat feet are also at higher risk for developing hammer toes. In some cases people are born with hammer toe. Bunions can cause them to develop because they make the big toe bend toward the smaller toes, crowd and overlap them. Toe joint arthritis can also cause hammer toes to develop.
Common Treatments For Hammer Toes
Treating hammer toe entails straightening the toe to make the tendons flexible. Some simple treatments include:
- Splinting the toe to stretch the tendons and keep the toe straight.
- Increasing comfort by using over-the-counter cushions, pads or straps.
- Doing foot and toe exercises to relax the tendons and straighten the toes.
- Wearing property fitting shoes to give the toes adequate room to stretch out.
- As a last resort, surgery can be used in advanced cases to straighten stiff and permanently bent toes by removing a little section of toe bone so the toe can lie flat. This procedure is considered cosmetic surgery.
Diagnosing hammer toe is usually done by examining the toes and feet.