Hammertoe is a condition where a toe joint bends downward causing the toes to have a curled appearance. Frequently, it’s caused by an imbalance of muscle and ligament tissues that connect and support the joints in toes. Trauma and ill-fitting footwear can cause or aggravate the condition, which may also be inherited.
Hammertoe can be painful, particularly for women (who are more likely to feel pressured to wear toe-pinching footwear, like heels), and unsightly. For diabetics and others with poor circulation, hammertoes can become a serious health hazard. The tissue can die and become infected, and that infection can spread to the blood.
Hammertoe is a progressive condition, meaning it gets worse over time, and will not correct itself without treatment. Fortunately, there are treatment options.
Early on in the progression of this deformity, hammertoes can still be moved at the joint. Hammertoes at this stage are called flexible hammertoes. Flexible hammertoes often respond to non-invasive treatments. Splinting, strapping, orthotic devices, foot-friendlier shoes, medication, and injections are some of the more popular options.
More serious is rigid hammertoe. Rigid hammertoe is the later stage of the condition, when the tendon becomes rigid and it is no longer possible to move the toes. At this stage, surgery is usually needed. Often, people with rigid hammertoe have multiple affected toes, and other foot deformities, such as bunions–having one piece out of alignment often means the rest of the foot develops these conditions. A surgeon can create a strategy to deal with these other deformities as well, so that your foot can heal healthier and better aligned, lowering your risk of developing future deformities.
Need help with hammertoes? Our NJ Foot and Ankle specialists can put their years of lower extremity expertise to work for you. Request an appointment today!