Hammertoe is a foot abnormality that is the result of an imbalance in the connective tissues in the foot, such as the muscles, tendons and ligaments, that keep the toes straight. Specifically, hammertoe is an abnormal curve in the toe’s middle joint. Mallet toe, a similar condition, is an abnormal curve in the toe’s joint nearest the nail.
Both hammer and mallet toe typically occur in the second, middle and fourth toe. Initially, both a hammertoe and mallet toe may maintain its flexibility, however, the tendons of the toe may begin to contract and tighten over time. This can cause the toe to remain permanently bent.
Corns are common symptom of hammertoe. Corns are a buildup of skin caused by friction and typically develop on areas of the feet that don’t bear weight, like the tops, sides and between the toes. However, corns may also develop in weight-bearing areas. Corns are hard in the center and usually surrounded by an area of inflamed skin and may be painful when pressure is placed on the affected area.
Also caused by friction, calluses are similar to corns, but develop on the bottom of feet. Calluses are rough, dry patches of built-up dead skin on the bottom of the toes or balls of the feet. Calluses can sometimes be painful, especially if it causes the toes to rub against the shoe.
Both hammer and mallet toe can be caused by:
- Poor fitting footwear, such as shoes that pinch or squeeze the toes and cause the toes to curl into an abnormal position. Due to their footwear styles, such as high heels, women have a higher probability of developing hammertoe than men.
- Injury can also result in the toes becoming deformed and developing an abnormal curvature.
- An imbalance of the toe muscles can result in instability and cause the toe to curl.
- The risk of hammertoe increases with age.
- Diseases like arthritis and diabetes might make you more prone to developing foot deformities.
- Heredity can sometimes play a role in developing hammertoe.
There are several viable treatment options available for hammertoe. Relieving the pain from hammertoe can sometimes be as simple as changing footwear and/or wearing inserts in your shoes. However, surgery may be required address more severe cases. Surgical procedures for hammertoe include:
- Tendon transfer involves setting the toe into the correct position by pulling a tendon adjacent to the hammertoe over the top of the joint. This compensates for muscle weaknesses and pulls the toe into a more natural position.
- Joint resection involves resectioning the ligaments and tendons to straighten the toe and may also involve inserting temporary pins to hold the toe in place until the tendon heals.
- Bone fusion removes parts of the afflicted joint to permit the bones to grow together, straightening the toe. Temporary pins may be placed in the toe to allow the bones to grow together properly.
Contact Dr. Alex Tievsky today to discuss which treatment plan may be best suited to help you begin the process of freeing yourself from the pain that comes from hammertoe. Dr. Tievsky has years of experience and will know the best treatment option for your specific situation.