While the very obvious hammer-like bend of the toe joint makes hammertoe easily recognizable, what’s causing the problem may not be so apparent. Most often, a muscle/tendon imbalance resulting from mechanical or structural changes that occur over time is responsible for the bent toe. This deformity can develop in the second, third, or fourth toe. Other causes include:
- Poorly fitting footwear—shoes that are too tight and narrow in the toe box or high heels that jam toes up against the front of the shoe can force the toe to bend
- Genetics—while hammertoe itself is not hereditary, the tendency for the faulty foot structure that leads to it can be inherited
- A previous injury
- Flatfeet—a problem with the arch of the foot can contribute to the development of hammertoe
Diagnosing and Treating Hammertoe
Symptoms of hammertoe should never be ignored. This is a progressive condition that will not go away on its own without treatment. In fact, as time goes on, the toe will become more rigidly fixed in the bent position until it cannot be unbent. Along the way, corns and calluses are likely to form on the top of the toe and on its tip as a result of the irritation caused by the skin rubbing on footwear.
At Lansdowne Podiatry, our board qualified podiatrist, Dr. Monique Renee Rolle, will evaluate your condition by taking a complete medical history and conducting an examination of the toe and foot. X-rays may be ordered to help determine how far the hammertoe has progressed. A treatment plan that’s right for you will then be formulated. Depending on how painful the hammertoe is, the foot doctor may prescribe corticosteroid injections or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Padding for corns and calluses may also relieve discomfort. Non-invasive methods of correcting a hammertoe include:
- Exercises for stretching and strengthening toe muscles
- Orthotics to change the position of the foot and correct muscle/tendon imbalance
- Straps or splints to properly realign the toe joint
- Choosing new footwear with deep, roomy toe boxes and a maximum heel height of two inches
If the hammertoe has been allowed to progress too far, surgery may be the only option for correcting the deformity.
Prompt treatment of hammertoe while still in its early, flexible stage is key. If you have hammertoe symptoms, contact our Leesburg office today by calling (571) 223-0424.