Toe problems and toe deformities such as claw toe and Hammer toe
happen when the tendons (guiders) that move the
toes get too tight or out of balance. The affected toe can rub on other toes and on the inside of your shoe, causing pressure and pain. Inflammatory arthritis, (swelling, pain, stiffness in joints),
which, such as rheumatoid arthritis can damage the toe joints and this may make them come out of position (dislocate).
Shoes that narrow toward the toe force the smaller toes into a bent upward position. This makes the toes rub against the inside of the shoe, and creates corns and calluses, aggravating the toes
further. If the shoes have a high heel, the feet are forced forward and down, squeezing the toes against the front of the shoe, which increases the pressure on the toes and makes them bend further.
Eventually, the toe muscles become unable to straighten the toe.
If the toes remain in the hammertoe position for long periods, the tendons on the top of the foot will tighten over time because they are not stretched to their full length. Eventually, the tendons
shorten enough that the toe stays bent, even when shoes are not being worn. The symptoms of hammertoe include a curling toe, pain or discomfort in the toes and ball of the foot or the front of the
leg, especially when toes are stretched downward, thickening of the skin above or below the affected toe with the formation of corns or Hammer toe
calluses, difficulty finding shoes that fit well. In its early stages, hammertoe is
not obvious. Frequently, hammertoe does not cause any symptoms except for the claw-like toe shape.
Some questions your doctor may ask of you include, when did you first begin having foot problems? How much pain are your feet or toes causing you? Where is the pain located? What, if anything, seems
to improve your symptoms? What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms? What kind of shoes do you normally wear? Your doctor can diagnose hammertoe or mallet toe by examining your foot. Your
doctor may also order X-rays to further evaluate the bones and joints of your feet and toes.
Non Surgical Treatment
To keep your hammertoes more comfortable, start by replacing your tight, narrow, pointy shoes with those that have plenty of room in the toes. Skip the high heels in favor of low-heeled shoes to take
the pressure off your toes. You should have at least one-half inch between your longest toe and the tip of your shoe. If you don't want to go out and buy new shoes, see if your local shoe repair shop
can stretch your shoes to make the toe area more accommodating to your hammertoe.
In some cases, usually when the hammertoe has become more rigid and painful, or when an open sore has developed, surgery is needed. Often patients with hammertoe have bunions or other foot
deformities corrected at the same time. In selecting the procedure or combination of procedures for your particular case, the foot and ankle surgeon will take into consideration the extent of your
deformity, the number of toes involved, your age, your activity level, and other factors. The length of the recovery period will vary, depending on the procedure or procedures performed.