, Claw and Mallet Toe are similar conditions, all caused by deformity of the toe joints. They usually
develop slowly from wearing poor fitting shoes, but can also be due to muscle or nerve damage. Muscle imbalance causes the toes to bend into odd positions which can be extremely painful, limiting
walking and activity. They become more common with aging and affect approximately 10-15% of the population. Women are five times more likely to suffer from hammer, claw or mallet toe than men.
Hammer toe is most often caused by wearing compressive shoes. It might also be caused by the pressure from a bunion. A bunion is a corn on the top of a toe and a callus on the sole of the foot
develop which makes walking painful. A high foot arch may also develop.
Symptoms may include pain in the affected toe or toes when you wear shoes, making it hard or painful to walk. A corn or callus on the top of the joint caused by rubbing against the shoe. Swelling and
redness of the skin over the joint. Trouble finding comfortable shoes.
Most health care professionals can diagnose hammertoe simply by examining your toes and feet. X-rays of the feet are not needed to diagnose hammertoe, but they may be useful to look for signs of some
types of arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis) or other disorders that can cause hammertoe. If the deformed toe is very painful, your doctor may recommend that you have a fluid sample withdrawn
from the joint with a needle so the fluid can be checked for signs of infection or gout (arthritis from crystal deposits).
Non Surgical Treatment
In the earlier stages of hammer toe, when the toes can still be manually straightened, then conservative treatment is appropriate. This means wearing shoes which are a half size bigger than normal
and which are not narrow around the toes. Exercises to stretch the toes out and strengthen the muscles under the foot which balances the tightness of the top tendons are important. Padding or corn
plasters can be used to ease the discomfort of any associated corns and calluses.
Treatment of a severe hammertoe that has become rigid includes surgery. What is done during the surgery depends on how misshapen and inflexible the toe is. The surgeon may hammertoe
make a cut over your toe and release the tendon by cutting the tendon away from the bone. The surgeon may
remove a small piece of bone from the toe. The surgeon may realign the tendons to reposition your toe or fasten the bones with pins. Sometimes the surgeon may have to join the bones in the toe. In
this case, you will no longer be able to bend the toe, but the toe will be flat.
In addition to wearing proper shoes and socks, walking often and properly can prevent foot injury and pain. The head should be erect, the back straight, and the arms relaxed and swinging freely at
the side. Step out on the heel, move forward with the weight on the outside of the foot, and complete the step by pushing off the big toe. Exercises specifically for the toe and feet are easy to
perform and help strengthen them and keep them flexible. Helpful exercises include the following. Raise and curl the toes 10 times, holding each position for a count of five. Put a rubber band around
both big toes and pull the feet away from each other. Count to five. Repeat 10 times. Pick up a towel with the toes. Repeat five times. Pump the foot up and down to stretch the calf and shin muscles.
Perform for 2 or 3 minutes.