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Hammer Toe

A hammer toe is a deformity of the toes where the toe is bent at the middle joint so it resembles a hammer. They occur on the second, third, or fourth toes and are flexible in the initial stages and can be treated with simple measures. When left untreated, they can become fixed and require surgery.

What causes it?

Contributing factors include shoes that narrow toward the toe and push the smaller toes into a flexed position, or high heels that force the foot down and squish the toes against the shoe. Eventually the toe muscles are unable to straighten even when there is no confining shoe.

How do you know you have it?

The most common sign is a visible bent toe, but others include:

  • Pain in the affected toes, especially when moving it or wearing shoes
  • Corns and calluses on top of the middle joint of the hammer toe
  • Swelling, redness, or a burning sensation
  • Inability to straighten the toe

How we fix it

The OSI foot and ankle team is here to listen, discuss your concerns, and examine you for signs and symptoms of hammer toe. Our goal is to have you back on your feet, pain free, enjoying the activities you love. While you’re under our expert care, you will undergo the following to determine the best course of care:

  • Physical exam: Your doctor will perform a careful exam of your foot and assess the visible signs.
  • X-rays: An x-ray will determine the extent of the deformity.

Nonsurgical Treatment

While your Orthopedic and Sports Institute can give you the best course of action, here are some tips to relieve your discomfort:

  • Wear shoes that are high and broad across the toes. Make sure there is at least one-half inch of space between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe.
  • Don’t wear heels higher than 2 inches.
  • Wear the appropriate shoes for the activity you are performing.
  • Purchase and wear hammer toe pads that fit around the pointy top of the toe joint.
  • Gently massage your toe and use ice to reduce swelling.
  • Certain foot exercises can help restore muscle balance.
  • Splinting the toe may help in the early stages.

Surgical Treatment

If hammer toe is not resolved by using the above methods, surgery might be needed. It is done as an outpatient surgery, and the type performed depends on the severity of the hammer toe. Your OSI doctor will walk you through the options to find the best solution for your specific case.

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