What are hammertoes, mallet toes and claw toes? Often the words are used interchangeably to mean an abnormally contracted toe like the drawing above. Technically speaking, a "Hammer toe
" is the name for a toe that is contracted at the first toe joint. If it's contracted at the second toe joint
it is called a "mallet toe". IIf a toe is contracted at both toe joints, it is called a "claw toe". Each of these conditions can be quite uncomfortable and are cosmetically unappealing.
Wearing ill-fitting shoes is probably the main cause of hammer toe. As the toe bends, tendons add to the problem by contracting in such a way that the bending is reinforced to the point of becoming
permanent. In some cases, tendons that are abnormal to begin with may start the Hammer toe
A hammer toe may be painful, especially when irritated by a shoe. All four toe conditions may cause cramps in the toes, foot and leg due to the abnormal function of the tendons in the foot. If a
mallet toe has occurred, you are likely to suffer from a corn at the end of the toe. A hammertoe may cause a corn on the top of the toe. Infections and ulcers can also occur. In severe cases a mallet
toe, trigger toe, claw toe or a hammer toe may create a downward pressure on the foot, which can result in hard skin and corns on the soles of the feet.
Most health care professionals can diagnose hammertoe simply by examining your toes and feet. X-rays of the feet are not needed to diagnose hammertoe, but they may be useful to look for signs of some
types of arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis) or other disorders that can cause hammertoe. If the deformed toe is very painful, your doctor may recommend that you have a fluid sample withdrawn
from the joint with a needle so the fluid can be checked for signs of infection or gout (arthritis from crystal deposits).
Non Surgical Treatment
Orthotics are shoe inserts that can help correct mechanical foot-motion problems to correct pressure on your toe or toes and reduce pain. Changing shoes. You should seek out shoes that conform to the
shape of your feet as much as possible and provide plenty of room in the toe box, ensuring that your toes are not pinched or squeezed. You should make sure that, while standing, there is a half inch
of space for your longest toe at the end of each shoe. Make sure the ball of your foot fits comfortably in the widest part of the shoe. Feet normally swell during the course of the day, so shop for
shoes at the end of the day, when your feet are at their largest. Don't be vain about your shoe size, sizes vary by brand, so concentrate on making certain your shoes are comfortable. Remember that
your two feet are very likely to be different sizes and fit your shoe size to the larger foot. Low-heel shoes. High heels shift all your body weight onto your toes, tremendously increasing the
pressure on them and the joints associated with them. Instead, wear shoes with low (less than two inches) or flat heels that fit your foot comfortably.
If your toe is not bendable, your doctor may recommend surgery. The type of surgery that will be performed will depend on the severity of the condition. You should expect blood and urine studies
before the procedure, as well as x-rays of your feet. Your doctor will inject either a local or regional anesthetic. If your toe has some flexibility, the doctor may be able to straighten it by
simply making an incision in the toe to release or lengthen the tendon. If the toe is not flexible, your doctor will probably make the same incision to release the tendon, but he or she may also
remove some pieces of the bone so that the bone can be straightened. A k-wire is placed in the toe to help hold it straight while it is healing. This is taken out after about four weeks.
As long as hammertoe causes no pain or any change in your walking or running gait, it isn?t harmful and doesn't require treatment. The key to prevention is to wear shoes that fit you properly and
provide plenty of room for your toes.