Hammer Toes

With hammer toe, you’ll find yet another foot ailment that is often caused by the wearing of poorly fitting shoes that are either too tight, too narrow and even too short. Hammer toes can also be the result of internal damage to the muscle or joint in the middle toes.

The condition is a deformity in the joint that forces one or all of the second through fourth toes to be permanently curled forward. (Hammer toe is most often found on the second toe.) Basically, the muscles contract and shorten because the toes have been bent for several extended periods of time. Other toe conditions can cause hammer toe as well. Bunions, for example, can force the toe to curl forward as it applies pressure to the toe box of our shoes. Hammer toe can subsequently create calluses and corns, making things even more problematic.

Hammer toe is not uncommon in patients who also show signs or are diagnosed with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. Kids can get hammer toe as well, especially during growth spurts as their feet quickly out-grow small shoes.

In many cases, conservative treatment consisting of physical therapy and new shoes with soft, spacious toe boxes is enough to resolve the condition, while in more severe or longstanding cases orthopedic surgery may be necessary to correct the deformity. Your doctor may also prescribe some toe exercises that can be done at home to stretch and strengthen the muscles. For example, the individual can gently stretch the toes manually, or use the toes to pick things up off the floor. While watching television or reading, one can put a towel flat under the feet and use the toes to crumple it.