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 "hammertoe
" 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.
More often than not, wearing shoes that do not fit a person well for too long may actually cause hammer toes. Wearing shoes that are too narrow or too tight for the person for extended periods of
time may eventually take a toll on the person's feet. The same is true for women who like wearing high-heeled shoes with narrow toe boxes.
People who have painful hammertoes visit their podiatrist because their affected toe is either rubbing on the end their shoe (signaling a contracted flexor tendon), rubbing on the top of their shoe
(signaling a contracted extensor tendon), or rubbing on another toe and causing a painful buildup of thick skin, known as a corn.
Most health care professionals hammertoes
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 If the deformed toe is very painful, your doctor may recommend that you have a fluid sample withdrawn from the joint with a needle so the fluid can be checked for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
Putting padding between your toes and strapping them in place can help to stop pain caused by the toes rubbing. Custom-made insoles for your shoes will help to take the pressure off any painful
areas. Special shoes that are wider and deeper than normal can stop your toes rubbing. However if your pain persists your consultant may recommend an surgery.
Surgically correcting a hammertoe is very technical and difficult, and requires a surgeon with superior capabilities and experience. The operation can be done at our office or the hospital with local
anesthetic. After making a small incision, the deformity is reduced and the tendons are realigned at the joint. You will be able to go home the same day with a special shoe! If you are sick and tired
of not fitting your shoes, you can no longer get relief from pads, orthopedic shoes or pedicures, and have corns that are ugly, sensitive and painful, then you certainly may be a good surgical
candidate. In order to have this surgery, you can not have poor circulation and and must have a clean bill of health.
Custom orthotics paired with a well made shoe can prevent the progression and development of hammertoes. Wearing proper-fitting shoes and custom orthotic devices can provide the support patients need
to address muscle/tendon dysfunction. It can also support end stage diseases that result in hammertoe deformities by re-balancing the foot and ankle and controlling the deforming forces.