A hammer toe is a deformity in which the muscles and tendons of certain toes tighten, causing the toe to bend involuntarily at the joint. It’s called a “hammer toe” because of the hammer-like shape: the middle joint sticks up, and the rest of the toe points toward the floor. If left untreated, the toe can be permanently stuck in the “hammered” position and the toe can no longer be extended. This can lead to a number of secondary problems, including corns and calluses, difficulty finding shoes that fit, and even difficulty walking.
Hammertoes can be treated either conservatively or surgically.
Conservative treatment for hammertoes:
- Changing your footwear. In mild or early cases of hammer toe, switching to sandals or other wider, flat and supportive shoes with a wider toebox may be enough to relieve discomfort.
- Taping or splinting. Along with wearing appropriate shoes, your doctor may tape or splint the joint to straighten the hammer toe into a more normal position. This can also help stretch the tendons and ligaments.
- Physical therapy. If your hammer toe is related to a muscle imbalance, the right exercises can help improve flexibility and strengthen the surrounding structures.
Surgical treatment for hammertoes. Typically, hammer toe surgery can be performed an outpatient procedure using local anesthesia.
The over-tightened tendons will be released to allow the toe to relax. Depending on your needs, we may also remove a small piece of bone to optimally correct the problem. In some cases depending on severity, a pin that sticks out of the end of the toe may be required to straighten the toe. This will be left in the toe for 6-7 weeks.