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What Causes a Hammertoe?

A hammertoe is a common deformity where a toe bends upward at the middle joint and gets stuck in that position. The top of the toe bends forward so it looks like a hammer. As time passes, the joint may get more rigidly bent and it can be painful and possibly lead to difficulty in walking and maintaining balance. Hammertoes can be inherited, with those with flatter feet and longer metatarsals (or middle bones of the feet) being more at risk. They can also be associated with a medical condition, such as diabetes. However, most often hammertoes develop from an imbalance within the toe structure. Usually something that forces extra weight to be put on the forefoot and toes (like tight shoes or high heels) can lead to hammertoes. The small muscles on the bottom of the foot get weaker than the larger muscles on the top of the foot and the toe does not bend or flex. Early detection and conservative treatment can help prevent the need for hammertoe surgery. Such intervention can be as simple as changing footwear to providing extra room for the toes, avoiding narrow, tight, and heeled shoes, using custom orthotics to off-load extra weight and strain towards the forefoot.  If you suffer from a hammertoe, it is suggested you consult with a podiatrist to find the best treatment plan. 

Hammertoes can be a painful condition to live with. For more information, contact one of our podiatrists of Centers for Foot & Ankle Care. Our doctors will answer any of your foot- and ankle-related questions.

Hammertoe

Hammertoe is a foot deformity that occurs due to an imbalance in the muscles, tendons, or ligaments that normally hold the toe straight. It can be caused by the type of shoes you wear, your foot structure, trauma, and certain disease processes.

Symptoms

  • Painful and/or difficult toe movement
  • Swelling
  • Joint stiffness
  • Calluses/Corns
  • Physical deformity

Risk Factors

  • Age – The risk of hammertoe increases with age
  • Sex – Women are more likely to have hammertoe compared to men
  • Toe Length – You are more likely to develop hammertoe if your second toe is longer than your big toe
  • Certain Diseases – Arthritis and diabetes may make you more likely to develop hammertoe

Treatment

If you have hammertoe, you should change into a more comfortable shoe that provides enough room for your toes. Exercises such as picking up marbles may strengthen and stretch your toe muscles. Nevertheless, it is important to seek assistance from a podiatrist in order to determine the severity of your hammertoe and see which treatment option will work best for you.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact one of our offices located in Merrillville, Portage, Michigan City, La Porte, and Schererville, IN . We offer the newest diagnostic and treatment technologies for all your foot care needs.

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