A hammertoe is a deformity of the toe that can form over time where the toe begins to start curling (hammering). This happens due to muscle and tendon imbalances of the foot. It is not something the patient is consciously doing, it is due to the foot type inherited from parents/grandparents. Certain foot types, such as higher or lower arches, cause a lot of strain and pulling of the tendons and ligaments in our foot, which can cause deformities such as hammertoes and bunions.
This curling of the toe can result in a bump on the top of the toe, known as a corn, and can form as a result of irritation and constant rubbing from shoes. Curling of the toes can lead to overlapping and underlapping of the toes as well. There are two types of hammertoes, and the best treatment choice will be determined by the type of hammertoe deformity. One type is where the toe is flexible; it can be manually manipulated and straightened out, but will go back to its original curling shape once you let it go. The other type is rigid where no matter how much you try to straighten it out by hand, it will remain curled. If you have a flexible hammertoe, it will eventually become rigid overtime if you do not treat it early.
How are hammertoes diagnosed and treated?
Hammertoes are diagnosed both clinically with your doctor performing a physical exam and evaluating your foot structure as well as through xray imaging. Xrays will show an in-depth view of the boney alignment of the toes and foot as a whole. Once it is determined whether you have a flexible or rigid hammertoe, treatment options can be given.
If your hammertoe is flexible, there are several ways to correct it, including but not limited to padding and strapping to help straighten the toes out, adjusting shoes to help accommodate the curling and prevent rubbing, stretching the tendons of the toes, orthotics to help realign the foot and prevent the toes from getting worse, and small in-office procedures such as tendon releases to help straighten the toe out. Medications to help soften corns, as well as shaving them down can help. If the hammertoe is rigid, all of the above can be done as well. Surgical correction of the hammertoe requires outpatient surgery to cut the bone, realign it, and hold it in place with a pin. The recovery is approximately 2-4 weeks, but the patient is able to walk in a special boot.
What to do if you notice your toes curling?
Contact your podiatrist immediately. More treatment options are available the earlier you begin to treat the hammertoes. At Advanced Podiatry, we have the latest treatment modalities to treat your hammertoes. Our doctors are highly trained in both surgery and clinic and will provide a customized treatment plan to meet your needs. Call us at 813-875-0555 to schedule at appointment with us!