A hammer toe is a foot deformity that occurs when there is an unusual bend in the middle joint of the toe. It normally happens to the middle toes and can cause the affected toe to push into or over another toe. It may be accompanied by corns and calluses and is usually associated discomfort and/or pain.
Hammertoe can be caused by a variety of different things including certain footwear, a traumatic injury or imbalanced muscles in the toe. Shoes that cause your toes to crowd each other and prevent them from being flat such as high heels can be a leading cause of hammertoe. Stubbing your toe or dropping a heavy object on your toe can also easily lead to hammertoe.
Treatment of hammertoe might be as simple as wearing different shoes or getting orthotic pads to wear in your shoes – be sure the pads are non-medicated pads. There are also simple exercises that might help depending on your specific circumstance such as squeezing a towel with your toes. If the condition is more extreme, surgery could be needed in order to release the tendon that’s pulling your toe in the wrong direction. Surgery, in rare cases, could involve removing a piece of bone from the affected toe, as well. Cortisone injections can be administered as another option, to help relieve more extreme cases of pain.
You can temporarily help alleviate swelling and pain by applying ice packs and gently massaging the toe at home. However, you should still see a podiatrist as soon as you can make an appointment to see one.
Prevention of hammertoe is fairly simple. You should always wear shoes or footwear that protect your toes from injury and that allow them room and comfort when walking standing or sitting.