The name Hammer toe
comes from the way the tip of the toe hits or hammers on the floor with each step. The primary
deformity seen in a hammer toe is found at the PIPJ (proximal interphalangeal joint) which is the first or more proximal of the two joints of the toe. A mallet toe, on the other hand, is a similar
deformity but is found in the DIPJ (distal interphalangeal joint). And lastly, claw toes are a deformity where the entire toe grabs and involves the MPJ (metatarsal phalangeal joint) PIPJ and DIPJ.
Collectively, these deformities are referred to as hammer toes. Hammer toes can affect one or all of the toes simultaneously.
Certain risk factors increase your likelihood of developing a hammertoe. These include a family history of hammertoes, wearing tight or pointy-toed shoes, wearing shoes that are too small, having
calluses, bunions, or corns (thickened layers of skin caused by prolonged/repeated friction) Wearing shoes that are too small can force the joint of your toes into a dislocated position. This makes
it impossible for your muscles to stretch out. Over time, the practice of wearing improperly fitting shoes increases your risk of developing hammertoes, blisters, bunions, and corns.
A hammertoe may be present but not always painful unless irritated by shoes. One may have enlarged toe joints with some thickened skin and no redness or swelling. However, if shoes create pressure on
the joint, the pain will usually range from pinching and squeezing to sharp Hammer toes
and burning. In long standing conditions, the dislocated joints can cause the pain of arthritis.
Hammertoes are progressive, they don?t go away by themselves and usually they will get worse over time. However, not all cases are alike, some hammertoes progress more rapidly than others. Once your
foot and ankle surgeon has evaluated your hammertoes, a treatment plan can be developed that is suited to your needs.
Non Surgical Treatment
What will a doctor do? Treat any foot complaints such as corns, calluses by periodically reducing the lesion and applying appropriate pads and dressings. Recommend the silicone toe prop. If an
infection is present, then anti-septic dressings, antibiotics and pads to redistribute pressure away from the lesion may be necessary. In the case of a mallet toe, trigger toe or claw toe. If a corn
occurs at the end of the toe, a silicone or leather prop may be used to straighten the toe. In a hammertoe deformity, a silicone prop to redistribute pressure away from a corn may be necessary. The
doctor may give footwear advice. In severe cases, corrective surgery may be necessary. The doctor may recommend orthosis to correct a mechanical complaint of the foot, such as 3/4 length silicone
A variety of anaesthetic techniques are possible. Be sure an discuss this with your surgeon during your pre-op assessment. The type of surgery performed will depend on the problem with your toes and
may involve releasing or lengthening tendons, putting joints back into place, straightening a toe and changing the shape of a bone.Your surgeon may fix the toes in place with wires or tiny screws.