Hammertoes are caused by a contracture of the toes as a result of a muscle imbalance between the tendons on the top and the tendons on the bottom of the toe. The deformity can be flexible or rigid in nature.
Frequently, hammertoes are the cause of corns on the top of the toe as a result of increased shoe pressure. They may also cause a painful callus on the ball of the foot. This occurs as a result of the toe pressing downward on the metatarsal bone behind the toe. This area then becomes prominent and the pressure of the bone against the ground causes a callus to form.
Hammertoes tend to slowly get worse with time and frequently, flexible deformities can become rigid.
What we can do to help you solve this problem
If your hammertoes are painful, we would recommend that we see you as a patient. Initially, we will perform a comprehensive history and physical examination to assess the cause of your hammertoe deformity. We will perform a complete biomechanical examination to see what role your foot function plays in the hammertoe formation. We typically will get a digital x-ray to assess the bone structure.
If your hammertoe deformity is still flexible, arch supports or prescription orthotics may be helpful. By controlling abnormal flattening of the arch, the foot is more stable and the toes will not have to “grip” the ground as much to stabilize your foot. If caught early, arch supports and orthotics can prevent flexible hammertoes from becoming rigid. We carry arch supports in our office that are typically much better than what you will find in the store. Some cases of hammertoes are more severe and may require the use of a prescription orthotic. This is a custom-made arch support that is made from a plaster impression or digital scan of your foot and arch. Unlike pre-made arch supports, however, an orthotic completely controls abnormal pronation or flattening of the arch and would most effectively stabilize your hammertoe deformities. Learn more about custom orthotics.
In severe cases of a hammertoe deformity and in cases where the hammertoe has become rigid, especially on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th toes, we generally will recommend that an arthrodesis procedure be performed. This is a procedure in which a portion of bone is removed from the level of the rigid joint and the joint is fused together in a straightened position. The procedure typically requires a pain or implant to be placed in the toe to hold the bones in place. New digital implant devices often allow a person to get back into regular shoes more quickly. An arthrodesis procedure is typically performed in the hospital. Once fused, the hammertoe deformity generally cannot return. Learn more about hammertoe implant surgery.
A hammertoe deformity of the 5th toe often requires a procedure called an arthroplasty. This is a procedure in which a small portion of bone is removed at the level of the rigid joint to allow more flexibility to the toe. This procedure is typically performed in the office using a simple local anesthetic. Learn more about hammertoe arthroplasty surgery.
It is important to seek professional care for your hammertoe deformity. The doctors at Council Bluffs Foot & Ankle Care are experts in the treatment of this condition. We will perform a thorough examination of your feet and discuss the best treatment option for you. Call today to request an appointment.