A hammer toe is a condition where the middle joint of your toe bends down, resembling a hammer. It mainly affects the second, third or fourth toe. Walking difficulties, swelling, and pain are the common symptoms of Evergreen hammer toe. This problem occurs when the muscles, ligaments, and tendons surrounding your middle toe joint are imbalanced. Wearing incorrect footwear is the leading cause of hammer toes. In most patients, a hammer toe is treatable. A hammer toe heals within weeks, but if you have diabetes, recovery may take longer.
Causes of Hammer Toe
Wearing shoes that are too tight around your toe box or high-heeled can force your toes to bend or flex. If your toes remain in this position for a prolonged period, the muscles that enhance your toes to straighten out become weak and unable to function correctly. Finally, your toes will not straighten, causing a hammer toe. Corns and calluses from tight shoes can also worsen the condition.
You have a high risk of developing hammer toes if you have flat feet or bunions. A flat foot is when you have no visible arch upon placing your feet on a flat surface. Bunions occur when bone growth develops on your big toe base joint, making it lean toward the neighboring toe. Hammer toes also happen if you have longer toes. Longer toes are likely to be bent when you wear tight or heeled shoes.
Genetics and gender
Genetic factors can lead to the development of hammer toes. If you have a parent with a hammer toe, you are at a high risk of developing the condition. Studies in 2013 show that hammer toes are highly heritable, especially among white Europeans. Hammer toe mainly affects women. They are more common in women because they wear tight shoes often compared to men. High-heeled shoes are also worn primarily by women, which increases the chances of developing hammer toes.
Past injuries and medical conditions
Earlier toe traumas can contribute to the development of hammer toe later in life. Diabetes and inflammatory joint conditions such as arthritis can increase the risk of developing a hammer toe. Hammer toes can also result from neuromuscular issues that affect the muscles, nerves that control muscles, or communication between the nerves and muscles.
Treatment options for Hammer Toe
The technique your doctor will use to treat your hammertoe will depend on the severity of your problem. These treatments include:
Footwear changes: You can correct early signs of hammer toe by avoiding wearing high-heeled, narrow, or tight shoes.
Over-the-counter products: You can purchase over-the-counter materials like cushioned straps, tubes, or cushions to reduce pressure and enhance comfort. Pain relievers such as ibuprofen can help reduce pain.
Splint: A splint is a form of an orthotic device that helps reduce hammer toe symptoms or prevent them from worsening. Splints help to control muscle and tendon imbalances.
Surgery: If other non-surgical techniques do not improve your hammer toe, your doctor can recommend surgery. Surgeries can involve tendon lengthening, joint fusion, or tendon transfer.
Although most hammer toes are treatable, ensure you seek medical care when you notice one for quick and effective treatment. Schedule an appointment at Rocky Mountain Foot and Ankle Center for hammer toe treatment to resume your usual walking.