Hammer, claw, and mallet toes are toes that do not have the right shape. They may look odd or may hurt, or both. Tight shoes are the most common cause of these toe problems. A hammertoe
is a toe that bends down toward the floor at the middle toe joint. It usually happens in the second toe. This
causes the middle toe joint to rise up. Hammer toes often occur with bunions. Claw toe often happens in the four smaller toes at the same time. The toes bend up at the joints where the toes and the
foot meet. They bend down at both the middle joints and at the joints nearest the tip of the toes. This causes the toes to curl down toward the floor. A mallet toe often happens to the second toe,
but it may happen in the other toes as well. The toe bends down at the joint closest to the tip of the toe.
More often than not, wearing shoes that do not fit a person well for too long may actually cause hammer toes. Wearing shoes that are too narrow or too tight for the person for extended periods of
time may eventually take a toll on the person's feet. The same is true for women who like wearing high-heeled shoes with narrow toe boxes.
The most obvious symptom of hammer, claw or mallet toe is the abnormal toe position. This is usually combined with pain: the abnormal foot position leads to excessive friction on the toe as it rubs
against any footwear which can be extremely painful. Corns & Calluses: repeated friction can result in the formation of a foot corn or callus on top of the toes. Stiffness, the joints become
increasingly stiff. In the early stages, the toes can usually be straightened out passively using your hands, but if allowed to progress, the stiffness may be permanent.
Most health care professionals can diagnose hammertoe simply by examining your toes and feet. X-rays of the feet are not needed to diagnose hammertoe, but they may be useful to look for signs of some
types of arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis) or other disorders that can cause hammertoe.
Non Surgical Treatment
If the toes are still mobile enough that they are able to stretch out and lay flat, the doctor will likely suggest a change of footwear. In addition, she may choose to treat the pain that may
result from the condition. The doctor may prescribe pads to ease the pain of any corns and
calluses, and medications ranging from ibuprofen to steroid injections for the inflammation and pain. Other options for non-surgical treatments include orthotic devices to help with the tendon and
muscle imbalance or splinting to help realign the toe. Splinting devices come in a variety of shapes and sizes but the purpose of each is the same: to stretch the muscles and tendon and flatten the
joint to remove the pain and pressure that comes from corns.
Sometimes, if the deformity is severe enough or surgical modification is needed, the toe bones may be fused so that the toe does not bend. Buried wires are used to allow for the fusion to heal, and
they remain in place after healing. Your skin is closed with fine sutures, which are typically removed seven to ten days after surgery. A dressing is used to help keep your toes in their new
position. Dressings should not get wet or be removed. After surgery, your doctor may prescribe pain relievers, typically for the initial four to seven days. Most people heal completely within one
month of surgery, with few complications, if any. Crutches or a cane may be needed to help you keep weight off your affected foot, depending on the procedure. Occasionally, patients receive a special
post-op shoe or a walking boot that is to be worn during the healing process. Most people are able to shower normally after surgery, but must protect the dressing from getting wet. Many patients are
allowed to resume driving within one week after the procedure, but care needs to be taken.
As long as hammertoe causes no pain or any change in your walking or running gait, it isn?t harmful and doesn't require treatment. The key to prevention is to wear shoes that fit you properly and
provide plenty of room for your toes.