Hammer Toe is a condition of the toe that affects the proximal interphalangeal joint. When this condition occurs, the toe becomes deformed. It can affect either the second, third or fourth toe, but the most common toe affected is the second toe. The toe becomes bent which causes it to resemble the look of a hammer. If caught in the early stages, this condition can be corrected. If left untreated, the joint can become fixed and surgery could be required.
The most common cause of Hammer Toe is poorly-fitted shoes. Muscle imbalance along with other factors such as being flat-footed can also cause this disorder. When the toe or toes are forced to bend in an improper position such as, when high heels are worn or if shoes are not wide or long enough, this condition can occur. When the toes remain bent for too long of a period, the muscle begins to shorten, causing this deformity. Other foot conditions that may also be found along with Hammer Toe are corns, bunions or calluses. This disorder is often diagnosed in diabetics, or those that may have nerve, muscle or joint disorders. When women wear high heels that are excessively high, it causes the toes to be pushed up against the shoe and can cause the toes to remain in that position after the shoes have been removed. Hammer Toe may also be the result or side effect of a congenital birth defect, or seen in children that consistently wear shoes after their feet have outgrown them.
Wearing properly fitted shoes will help to prevent Hammer Toe from occurring. Shoes should be big enough so that the toes are not squeezed together or pushed into the shoe. Shoes should also be 1/2 inch longer than the big toe or second toe, if the second toe is the longest toe. Avoiding heels that are too high or shoes that are too tight will also help prevent Hammer Toe.
Symptoms of Hammer Toe include, but are not limited to, foot pain, which usually is more painful in the joint of the big toe where it joins the foot. There may also be corns on the top of the toe, calluses on the sole of the foot, or a deformity of the affected toe that appears as claw-like.
Treatment of Hammer Toe will depend on the severity of the condition. If attention is sought early enough before the condition becomes permanent, the toes can be straightened and measures can be taken to prevent a reoccurrence. If Hammer Toe is caused by a person being flat-footed, a podiatrist can create a custom-molded shoe that will give adequate support and aid the toe muscles. Treatment for more severe cases of Hammer Toe involve minor surgery called Arthroplasty. With Arthroplasty, a surgeon or podiatrist must make a small incision along the toe in order to trim the top of the proximal phalanx, which allows the toe to straighten. If this procedure is not successful, other procedures can be used to correct this condition.