What is a Hammer Toe? 

The second, third, or fourth toe may bend inward at the mid-joint, giving it the appearance of a hammer. This condition is known as a hammer toe.

The toe may be bent up at the bottom - giving it the appearance of a hammer, or it may curl down at the top. It may become rigid or flexible and may appear crooked or buckled. Hammer toe may occur as an isolated condition or as a symptom of an underlying medical condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, joint infection, or trauma. 

How do you know if you have a Hammer Toe?

If you have a hammer toe, you will notice that the top of your toe is curved and higher than your other toes. You may also experience pain, tenderness, swelling, or corns in or around the affected toe. If left untreated, hammer toe deformity can become worse and more painful. Always see a podiatrist if you have a hammer toe.

Symptoms of a Hammer Toe?

  • Tenderness
  • Painful swelling or a lump in the affected toe 
  • A toe that bends downward at the middle joint 
  • A toe that points upward in the middle joint 
  • Difficulty bending or straightening the affected toe 
  • Difficulty walking 
  • Pain when walking or standing 
  • Corns or calluses on the affected toe

What Causes a Hammer Toe to Develop? 

  • Improper Shoewear that does not provide the correct support 
  • Muscle Imbalance in the toes or tendons of the foot
  • Toe Injuries
  • Arthritis 
  • Foot Injury 
  • Genetic factors 
  • High-heeled shoes or footwear with a small toe box
  • Diabetes
  • Bunions
  • Age

Understanding the Two Types of Hammer Toes

Flexible Hammertoe: 

A flexible hammertoe is when you can still move your toe at the joint. A flexible hammer toe is a deformity of the toenail caused by an imbalance in the muscle and ligament that holds it in place. It results in a downward bending of the end part of the toe, giving it a hammer-like shape. This bend can occur in any of the toes but is commonly seen in the second toe. 

In most cases, the cause of the deformity is tight-fitting shoes that put pressure on the toe and its joints. 

Rigid Hammertoe:

A rigid hammertoe is a toe deformity that is associated with a bone or joint abnormality, causing increased pressure and contracture of the toe. It is considered to be rigid because the joints of the toes become immobile, affecting their ability to bend normally. Treatment options may include orthotic devices, braces, surgery, and lifestyle changes.

How to Manage the Pain of a Hammer Toe 

Here are some ways you can manage the pain of this condition: 

  1. Wear shoes with a wide toe box: Choose roomy shoes in the toe area so that your hammer toe does not rub against the sides of the shoe. 

  2. Use silicone toe sleeves: Specialized toe sleeves can cushion and separate your toes, decreasing the pressure on your toe. This can ease the pain associated with hammer toes. 

  3. Try toe spacers: Toe spacers can provide cushioning between your toes while they are straightened in a correcting splint or brace.  

  4. Consider correcting splints: Corrective splints can help straighten the toe while relieving pressure.

  5. Repeat exercises and stretches throughout the day. Stretch and extend the toes to reduce stiffness and improve flexibility.

  6. Use ice therapy to reduce inflammation and pain. Place ice packs on the affected area for 15-minute sessions several times per day.

  7. Take over-the-counter pain relievers: Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin can help to alleviate any pain and swelling associated with hammer toe. (Note: Consult with your healthcare provider)

  8. See a podiatrist: Your podiatrist can offer treatment advice, including custom orthotics or specially-made shoes to accommodate your hammer toe. 

Choosing the Right Orthotics for Hammer Toe 

When choosing the right orthotics for a hammer toe, it is essential to consider the severity of the condition. For mild cases, cushioned insoles may relieve some pressure on the toes. However, for more severe issues, a custom-fitted orthotic may be required for supporting and realigning the toes, helping to reduce symptoms and improve the overall appearance of the foot. 

Additionally, orthotics designed explicitly for hammer toe may provide further support and comfort.

3 Hammer Toe Myths and Misconceptions 

  1. Myth: hammertoes are always the result of tight or improper footwear. Fact: While ill-fitting shoes are often a contributing factor, hammertoe can also be inherited or acquired over time through wear and tear. 
  2. Myth: You can't do anything about hammertoes. Fact: Hammertoes can be treated conservatively (in certain cases) or with surgery. There are a variety of nonsurgical treatments, such as shoe modifications and orthotic devices, that can help. 
  3. Myth: All hammertoes are the same. Fact: Hammertoes can vary in severity, and the course of treatment depends on the patient and the type of hammertoe. 

Planning Your Next Visit

Our team at Greenberg Podiatry in Ottawa is devoted to providing high-quality and compassionate care. We take pride in staying up-to-date on the most current treatments so our patients can continue living an active life while maintaining their physical well-being. Our goal is to treat your existing ailments and anticipate potential problems before they start. We go above and beyond typical healthcare solutions to ensure you receive the best possible service. 

Take advantage of our personalized advice by contacting Greenberg Podiatry today! A few simple steps could significantly impact your quality of life.