Hammertoe is a common foot condition that can be quite painful and uncomfortable. This condition can affect anyone, but it is more common in women than in men. 

If you’re experiencing foot pain and suspect that you may have a hammertoe, seek the help of our qualified foot and ankle surgeons at Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Center located in the Greater Columbus area. We can help diagnose the condition and provide you with the necessary treatment options to alleviate the discomfort of hammertoes and other foot and ankle conditions. Don’t let foot pain hold you back – take action and seek help from a professional today! 

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What Is a Hammertoe?

A hammertoe is a foot deformity that affects the toe joint, particularly the middle joint of the second, third, or fourth toe. This condition causes the toe to bend downward in a shape that resembles a hammer, hence its name.

What Causes a Hammertoe?

A hammertoe can be caused by a variety of factors, but one of the most common is wearing shoes that don’t fit properly.

Wearing shoes that are too tight, particularly high-heeled shoes, can put pressure on the toe muscles, causing them to tighten and curl over time. This can make a hammer toe worse, especially if the shoes have a narrow or pointed toe box. In addition, high heels can shift the weight of the body forward, placing even more pressure on the toes and making the development of a hammer toe more likely.

A doctor treating hammertoe in Columbus, OH.

What Are the Symptoms of a Hammertoe?

Hammer toe correction by a Columbus foot doctor.

The following are some of the most common symptoms associated with hammertoe:

  • Pain and Discomfort: The most common symptom of a hammertoe is pain and discomfort, which is usually felt at the top of the bent toe. The pain can worsen when you wear shoes, especially those with a narrow or pointed-toe box. You may also experience discomfort or pain in the ball of your foot, where the affected toe meets the foot.
  • Corns and Calluses: Hammertoes can cause corns and calluses to form on the tops, sides, or bottoms of the affected toe. These are hard and thickened areas of skin that develop as a result of friction or pressure from shoes. Corns and calluses can be painful and may require treatment.
  • Inability to Flex or Move the Toe: In severe cases of hammertoe, the affected toe may become rigid and unable to flex or move. This can make it difficult to walk or perform other activities that require foot movement.
  • Swelling and Redness: The toe may also become swollen and red, especially if the hammertoe is caused by an injury or infection.
  • Change in Foot Shape: As hammertoes progress, they can cause changes in the shape of the foot, making it difficult to fit into shoes. This can cause further pain and discomfort and may require specialized footwear or custom orthotics.

When to See a Doctor

If left untreated, hammer toe can worsen and lead to complications such as corns, calluses, and difficulty walking. The pressure caused by the bent toe can cause irritation and pain on the top of the affected toe or the ball of the foot.

If you suspect that you have a hammer toe, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. Early intervention can help prevent the condition from worsening and improve your quality of life.

How Are Hammertoes Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of hammertoes typically involves a physical examination by a medical professional. During the examination, the doctor will observe the affected toe and look for signs of deformation, such as a toe that tightens or curls downward. They may also check for pain, swelling, and redness in the affected area.

In some cases, the doctor may request an X-ray to further evaluate the severity of the condition. An X-ray can reveal any bone abnormalities that may have contributed to the development of hammertoe.

How Are Hammertoes Treated?

The treatment for hammertoes depends on the severity of the condition. Mild hammertoes can often be managed through non-surgical methods, while more severe cases may require surgical intervention.

Treatment - Mild Hammer Toe

For mild cases of hammertoe, treatment may include wearing shoes with a wider toe box to accommodate the affected toe and reduce pressure. Custom-made orthotics or shoe inserts may also be recommended to help support the foot and prevent further deformity. Toe exercises and stretches can also help improve flexibility and reduce stiffness in the affected toe.

Treatment - Severe Hammer Toe

For those with a severe case, hammertoe surgery may be necessary to correct the deformity. There are several surgical options available, including arthroplasty, in which a portion of the affected joint is removed, and arthrodesis, in which the affected joint is fused to prevent movement. In some cases, both procedures may be performed in combination.

How Can I Prevent Hammertoes?

In order to prevent the development of hammertoes, it’s important to wear comfortable shoes with a wide toe box that allows for natural movement of the toes. Regularly stretching and exercising the toes can also help to keep them flexible and strong, reducing the risk of developing hammertoe. By taking these steps, individuals can avoid the pain and discomfort that can come with this condition.

Get the Help You Need Today

If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort in your toes, or some other type of foot and ankle condition, don’t ignore it any longer. Learn more about hammertoes and how they can impact your foot health by scheduling an appointment with one of our expert foot and ankle surgeons at Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Center.

Our orthopedic experts in Columbus, OH can provide valuable insights on the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for hammertoes. Schedule an appointment with us today!

Medically Reviewed by: Roberto A. Brandão, DPM, FACFAS

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