Hammer toe

Legs are considered our best companion; they work so hard, toiling whole day carrying us from place to place, beautiful long legs always adds to the personality of the person. But sometimes your long beautiful legs or specifically long toe bone might be the reason for a condition called as hammer toe.

Overview of Hammer toe

Hammer toe is a condition where the middle portion of your toe bone curls up and the end of the toe bend downwards appearing like a hammer or a stiff claw.

Hammer toe is a painful condition that can occur in any of the toe in the leg but it is mostly found affecting the second toe. If the affected toe is pushed and pressurized while wearing shoe it results in pain and formation of callus, corn, blisters on top of the bent toe or on bottom of your foot.

Hammer toe starts out as a minor problem, and initially they are flexible and can be cured by surgical treatment but if left untreated, your toe may become stiffer and does not respond to any kind of treatment.

Symptoms of hammer toe

A few symptoms of hammer toe have been mentioned below. They are:

  • A hammer toe has a downward bent
  • Stiff and has a claw-like appearance
  • Callus formation on the sole of foot
  • Corn formation on top of the bent toe
  • Pain in the bone that joins the big toe with the foot and pain while moving the toe
  • Inflammation
  • Irritation
  • Redness in the affected toe
  • Formation of open sores

Preventing hammer toe

You can prevent many of your leg, ankle, and toe problems by wearing proper, comfortable shoes. Remember to check shoe size for yourself and importantly for children who are in their growing age.

Never wear a small or narrow shoe with pointed toe and avoid wearing heels.

Select comfortable athletic shoes, with soft cushioned insole and stiff bottom.

Avoid buying plastic or vinyl shoes as they do not allow air circulation when your feet sweat.

Buy adjustable shoes with lace.

Buy shoes at mid-day as your feet is smaller in the morning and bulges in the evening; in addition, measure the size of both the feet as they may not be of same size in many.

Happy feet…

Repairing hammer toe is possible in many patients. Successful outcome are possible only if it is identified in the early stage and proper treatment is given at the right time.

Do not force your feet in to a small unfit shoe. Rather place it comfortably and help your feet to breathe and perspire properly. Happy feet will avoid many future complications.

A detailed physical examination is enough to diagnose hammer toe. During physical examination the contracture of the bone is studied and if required X-ray will be taken to study the degree of deformity of the toe bone.

There are basically two treatment approaches for hammer toe which is non-surgical and surgical.

Treatment begins once your doctor checks the flexibility of the affected toe. If the affected toe is still flexible, then it can be treated by non-surgical procedures like tapping or immobilizing the toe to a straighter position.

Your doctor might teach you how exactly you should do this, so that you can do it at home.

He may also suggest corrective foot wear, corn pads, and other devices to reduce pain.

Your doctor may teach you certain exercise like moving your toe gently with hands to keep them flexible.

You can also try picking up small, light weighted objects like marbles or towels using your toe.

Apply icepacks if it’s painful or swelled.

Non-steroid anti-inflammatory medicines can be effective, but if pain and swelling is severe then your physician might go for a steroid shot in the toe joint.

Surgical treatments are preferred only in severe cases. If your toe is stiffer, it cannot be straightened without a surgery.

Surgery is done under local anesthesia and you can leave right after the surgery. The surgical procedure depends on the severity and deformity of the bone. If your toe is mildly flexible then surgery involves cutting or moving the tendons to straighten the toe.

If your condition is severe and your toe is immovably stiffer then surgery may be done to realign the tendons along with removal of some parts of the bent toe and then fusing of the other joints together to make the toe straighter and shorter.

The major symptom of hammer toe is hammer like or claw-like appearing toe. The various causes for the toe to bend downward are:

  • Long toe bones are more likely to bend downwards
  • Wearing smaller tight shoes
  • Wearing narrow and high heeled shoes
  • Pressure from bunion (bump that develops in the base bone of the bigger toe, causing the bigger toe to bend towards the other smaller toes)
  • In rare case where all the toes are involved may signal towards nerves or spinal cord problem
  • Rheumatoid arthritis & stroke
  • Injury to the toe bone
  • Muscle and nerve damage due to diabetic neuropathy
  • Having flat feet may also cause hammer toe
  • In few it is inherited