At Long Island Foot & Ankle Group we often see patients with hammertoe in its advanced stages because they didn’t believe anything could be done to treat this common condition. Although easily identified by its namesake appearance, hammertoe is not well understood. Below are some facts about this disorder and what can be done to treat it:
Fact: Hammertoe is a deformity of the second, third, fourth or fifth toe that consists of one or both joints contracting and causing the toe to bend downward. Initially, the toe is still flexible and can be straightened but hammertoes are a progressive disorder and without treatment the bent shape will become more rigid and unable to be corrected without surgery.
Fact: Hammertoe is most often caused by a muscle/tendon imbalance caused by a structural or neurological change in the foot. Sometimes it can be the result of a trauma or, if one toe is significantly longer than the others, hammertoe can happen over time because the toe is constantly cramped and bending to fit into shoes. The tendency for hammertoe can be inherited.
Fact: In addition to the pain and discomfort from being bent in an unnatural position, patients with hammertoe suffer from the secondary problems of corns and calluses that form on the top of the toe and the ball of the foot due to the rubbing and pressure from footwear on the toe.
Fact: Treatment is available and most effective in the early stages of the disorder. Our foot and ankle surgeons, Dr. Russell Caprioli, Dr. Mary Ann Bilotti, Dr. John Haight or Dr. Marzana Mleczko will need to examine your toe and try to move it to gauge flexibility. An x-ray may be ordered to determine how far the deformity has progressed and to use as a way of monitoring future changes. Exercises, taping the toes in the correct position and custom orthotic devices for your shoes can all help correct and relieve a hammertoe. In addition, the podiatrist will make suggestions regarding shoe design and padding for increased comfort and protection for any corns or calluses that have formed.