Hammertoes are usually a result of tendon imbalance. The toes are pulled up by the tendons on the top of the foot, and the tips of the toes are crooked and curled down. There is often discomfort at the top part of the toe that is rubbing against the shoe.
Hammer toes are classified based on the mobility of the toe joints. There are two types – flexible and rigid. In a flexible hammer toe, the joint has the ability to move. This type of hammer toe can be straightened manually. A rigid hammer toe does not have that same ability to move. Movement is very limited and can be extremely painful. This sometimes causes foot movement to become restricted leading to extra stress at the ball-of-the-foot, and possibly causing pain and the development of corns and calluses.
Treatment and Prevention of Hammer Toes
Changing the type of footwear worn is a very important step in the treatment of hammer toes. When choosing a shoe, make sure the toe box is high enough to accommodate the hammer toes. Some shoes are made with soft, flexible and seamless uppers, which are much more forgiving than standard leather or cloth uppers. Also, since to may be necessary to remove pressure from calluses forming on the bottom of the foot a shoe with extra-depth may be necessary. This will allow for an orthotic to be made to redistribute pressure off of these calluses (please see section on calluses). Other conservative treatments include using forefoot products designed to relieve hammer toes, such as hammer toe crests and hammer toe splints. These devices will help hold down the hammer toe and provide relief to the forefoot. Gel toe shields and gel toe caps are also recommended to eliminate friction between the shoe and the toe, while providing comfort and lubrication. Surgery is an option, so consult your foot doctor if necessary.