Hammer, claw, and mallet toes are toes that do not have the right shape. They may look odd or may hurt, or both. Tight shoes are the most common cause of these toe problems. A hammertoe
is a toe that bends down toward the floor at the middle toe joint. It
usually happens in the second toe. This causes the middle toe joint to rise up. Hammer toes often occur with bunions. Claw toe often happens in the four smaller toes at the same time. The toes bend
up at the joints where the toes and the foot meet. They bend down at both the middle joints and at the joints nearest the tip of the toes. This causes the toes to curl down toward the floor. A mallet
toe often happens to Hammer toes
the second toe, but it may happen in the other toes as well. The toe bends down at the joint closest to the tip
of the toe.
Hammer toes are most frequently caused by a muscle - tendon imbalance in the foot, and are seen both in adults and children. Foot muscles work in pairs to straighten and bend the toes. If your foot
has a biomechanical defect, the muscles tighten and the tendons shorten. Eventually, the toe muscles can?t straighten the toe, even when barefoot. Contributing factors are poor choices in footwear,
arthritis, or trauma.
Symptoms include sharp pain in the middle of the toe and difficulty straightening the toe. People with hammertoe may also develop blisters, which are fluid-filled pockets of skin, because the bent
toe is likely to rub against the inside of a shoe. This increased friction may also lead to calluses, which are areas of thickened skin, and corns, which are hard lumps that may form on or between
toes. Symptoms may be minor at first, but they can worsen over time.
Some questions your doctor may ask of you include, when did you first begin having foot problems? How much pain are your feet or toes causing you? Where is the pain located? What, if anything, seems
to improve your symptoms? What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms? What kind of shoes do you normally wear? Your doctor can diagnose hammertoe or mallet toe by examining your foot. Your
doctor may also order X-rays to further evaluate the bones and joints of your feet and toes.
Non Surgical Treatment
Conservative treatment starts with new shoes that have soft, roomy toe boxes. Shoes should be one-half inch longer than your longest toe. (Note: For many people, the second toe is longer than the big
toe.) Avoid wearing tight, narrow, high-heeled shoes. You may also be able to find a shoe with a deep toe box that accommodates the hammer toe. Or, a shoe specialist (Pedorthist) may be able to
stretch the toe box so that it bulges out around the toe. Sandals may help, as long as they do not pinch or rub other areas of the foot.
Surgery may be the treatment of choice if conservative approaches prove unsuccessful. Usually performed as an outpatient procedure, the specific surgery will depend on the type and extent of injury
to the toe. Recovery my take several days or weeks and you may experience some redness, stiffness and swelling of the affected toe. Your physician will recommend taking it easy and to keep your foot
elevated while you recover.
How can I prevent hammer toe? Avoid wearing shoes that are narrow or don?t fit well. Also, don?t wear heels higher than 2 inches. Instead, choose shoes with a wide toe box that give you ? inch
between the end of your longest toe and the inside tip of the shoe. Check often to make sure your child?s shoes fit, especially when he or she is having a growth spurt.