What are Hammertoes, What Causes Hammertoes, and What is the Treatment for Hammertoes?
A hammertoe is a toe that is contracted at the PIP joint (middle joint in the toe), and can lead to severe pressure and pain. Ligaments and tendons that have tightened cause the toe’s joints to curl downwards. Hammertoes may occur in any toe, except the big toe. There is often discomfort at the top part of the toe that is rubbing against the shoe.
Hammertoes are classified based on the mobility of the toe joints. There are two types, flexible and rigid. In a flexible hammertoe, the joint has the ability to move. This type of hammertoe can be straightened manually. A rigid hammertoe does not have that same ability to move. Movement is very limited and can be extremely painful. This sometimes causes foot movement to become restricted leading to extra stress at the ball-of-the-foot, and possibly causing pain and the development of corns and calluses.
Hammertoes result from a muscle imbalance that causes the ligaments and tendons to become unnaturally tight. This results in the joint curling downwards. Arthritis can also lead to many different forefoot deformities, including Hammertoes.
Changing the type of footwear worn is a very important step in the treatment of Hammertoes. When choosing a shoe, make sure the toe box (toe area) is high and broad, and can accommodate the hammertoes. A shoe with a high, broad toe box will provide enough room in the forefoot area so that there is less friction against the toes. A custom orthotic can be fabricated to reduce pressure to the toes. These orthotics work very well in a shoe that has extra depth as well as clearance in the toe box.