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Hammertoe is a deformity that occurs in the four smaller toes and not in the big toe.  It is a bending of one or both of the joints of these toes causing the toe to resemble a hammer.  Hammertoes develop over years and are common in adults. Women have more problems than men because of the types of shoes they may wear, such as high heels. 

Pain and a toe that looks odd are symptoms of a hammertoe.  The toe may rub against your shoe causing you to develop corns on the top, side or end of your toe.  Corns are a buildup of tissue due to friction and may be hard or soft depending on their location.  They can be painful and you may have trouble finding shoes that fit.

The most common cause of hammertoe is a muscle/tendon imbalance.  Two muscles work together to straighten and bend the toes. If a shoe forces a toe to stay in a bent position for too long, the muscles tighten and the tendons shorten (contract). This makes it harder to straighten the toe. Over time, the toe muscles cannot straighten the toe, even if you are not wearing shoes.  Sometimes hammertoes are caused by trauma or it are inherited. 

The physicians and surgeons at Ankle & Foot of Edmonds will give you foot and ankle a thorough examination and propose treatment to suit your foot type and gait pattern.  They may recommend wearing shoes with soft, roomy toe boxes and toe exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles.  They may recommend strapping the toe, cushions or non medicated corn pads to relieve symptoms.  Corns and calluses may be trimmed.  This should be done by your physician to avoid the risk of cuts and infection.  Orthotics (custom molded shoe inserts) may be advised to help control the muscle/tendon imbalance.  Sometime cortisone injections are advised to ease the pain and inflammation.  Non-steroidal ant-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) such as Ibuprofen may be indicated.  In severe cases, hammertoe surgery may be recommended to correct the deformity.  This would be indicated when the hammertoe has become rigid.  Your physician and surgeon will discuss with you the appropriate procedure to correct your type of hammertoe.  

Because hammertoes result from mechanical (structural) changes in the foot over time, there may not be anything to prevent them occurring.  However, avoiding narrow or too short shoes will help prevent the condition from worsening.  Slip-on shoes may exacerbate the problem so wearing lace up shoes or shoes with a strap would be better.   Trauma occasionally is responsible for a hammertoe developing so avoiding walking barefoot, which increases the risk for injury, would be advisable.  Your ankle and foot surgeon could advise you on toe devices that may alleviate pressure or prevent the deformity from worsening and also provide you with exercises for the foot and ankle to help strengthen them and keep them flexible. 

Contact Ankle & Foot of Edmonds to schedule an appointment for Hammertoe

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