and mallet toe are two foot deformities that occur most often in women who wear high heels or shoes with a narrow
toe box. These types of footwear may force your toes against the front of the shoe, causing an unnatural bending. A hammertoe has an abnormal bend in the middle joint of a toe. Mallet toe affects the
joint nearest the toenail. Hammertoe and mallet toe are most likely to occur in the toe next to your big toe. Relieving the pain and pressure of hammertoe and mallet toe may involve changing your
footwear and wearing shoe inserts. If you have a more severe case of hammertoe or mallet toe, you may need surgery to experience relief.
Hammertoes are a contracture of the toes as a result of a muscle imbalance between the tendons on the top of the toes (extensor tendons) and the tendons on the bottom of the toes (flexor tendons). If
there is an imbalance in the foot muscles that stabilize the toe, the smaller muscles can be overpowered by the larger flexor and extensor muscles.
Patients with hammertoes
hammer toe(s) may develop pain on the top of the toe(s), tip of the toe, and/or
on the ball of the foot. Excessive pressure from shoes may result in the formation of a hardened portion of skin (corn or callus) on the knuckle and/or ball of the foot. Some people may not recognize
that they have a hammer toe, rather they identity the excess skin build-up of a corn.The toe(s) may become irritated, red, warm, and/or swollen. The pain may be dull and mild or severe and sharp.
Pain is often made worse by shoes, especially shoes that crowd the toes. While some hammer toes may result in significant pain, others may not be painful at all. Painful toes can prevent you from
wearing stylish shoes.
A hammertoe is usually diagnosed with a physical inspection of your toe. Imaging tests, such as X-rays, may be ordered if you have had a bone, muscle, or ligament injury in your toe.
Non Surgical Treatment
Changing the type of footwear worn is a very important step in the treatment of hammer toes. When choosing a shoe, make sure the toe box (toe area) is high and broad, and can accommodate the hammer
toes. 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. Other conservative treatments include using forefoot products
designed to relieve hammer toes, such as hammer toe crests and hammer toe splints. These devices will help hold down the hammer toe and provide relief to the forefoot. Gel toe shields and gel toe
caps are also recommended to eliminate friction between the shoe and the toe, while providing comfort and lubrication.
If conservative treatments don't help, your doctor may recommend surgery to release the tendon that's preventing your toe from lying flat. In some cases, your doctor might also remove some pieces of
bone to straighten your toe.