Hammer Toe Q & A

What is hammertoe?

A hammertoe deformity occurs when the toe joints bend abnormally to resemble a hammer, or an upside-down V when viewed from the side. This podiatric condition can affect any toe but is most common in the second through fifth toes.

In the early stages, a hammertoe may retain its flexibility and range of motion at the joint. Flexible hammertoes are less serious and easier to treat than rigid, or inflexible hammertoes.

Cases of hammertoes that remain untreated for a long time or occur in women and men with arthritis may result in a loss of flexibility. Surgery is usually the only treatment for rigid hammertoes.

What causes hammertoe?

The most common cause of hammertoe involves an imbalance in the muscles and tendons in the toe. Common causes of muscle imbalance in the foot include:

  • Genetic variations in foot structure
  • Previous injuries or foot trauma
  • Arthritis of the foot

Wearing tight-fitting shoes can aggravate muscle imbalance and lead to hammertoe.  

What are hammertoe symptoms?

Hammertoes are progressive, so your symptoms get worse and don’t resolve on their own. Common signs and symptoms of hammertoe include:

  • Pain or irritation while wearing shoes
  • Inflammation or redness
  • One or more abnormally bent toes
  • Corns or calluses on the toes or ball of the foot
  • Restricted motion in the toe joint

Over time, the toe can become rigid and develop open sores that may become infected. This condition never improves without treatment, that’s why it’s best to schedule an appointment with Dr. Kleis as soon as you notice symptoms of hammertoe.

How do you diagnose and treat hammertoe?

First, Dr. Kleis performs a thorough physical exam and review of our medical history. He may try to reproduce your symptoms by moving your toe with his hands. Dr. Kleis may also take an X-ray to determine the extent of your condition and check for signs of joint damage.

Finally, he develops an individualized treatment plan that may include:

  • Changing to roomier footwear
  • Padding or trimming corns and calluses
  • Wearing custom orthotic footwear or devices
  • Oral or injectable anti-inflammatory medications
  • Splinting the affected toe

For a flexible hammertoe, often a simple 10 minute surgery in the office can straighten the toe.  

For expert hammertoe treatment from a professional who takes the time to answer your questions and explain procedures and treatments in detail, call or book an appointment online with Dr. Kleis today.

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