Your toes should point straight ahead. If any of them instead curl downward at the middle joint, you may have a hammertoe. At Precision Footcare in Midtown East, New York City, board-certified podiatrist John Jurcisin, DPM, ABPS, FACFAS, treats hammertoes using conservative approaches or surgery as needed. To schedule an appointment, call the Midtown office or use the online booking tool.
A hammertoe is a deformity that can affect your second, third, or fourth toes. Instead of pointing straight ahead, as it should, a hammertoe curls down at the middle joint, so it resembles a hammer.
Hammertoes are usually the result of improper footwear. Your shoes should have a large enough toe box that your toes can lie fully flat. Hammertoes may develop if your shoes don’t have enough room and crowd your toes.
Tight shoes, including high heels, can force your toes into a bent position. Over time, your toes can get used to being bent, so they remain in that position even when you’re not wearing shoes.
Usually, there are multiple risk factors that contribute to hammertoe. Arthritis, foot injuries, nerve damage, and high arches can increase the likelihood of developing hammertoe.
The telltale sign of a hammertoe is that your toe points downward instead of straight ahead.
Hammertoes are mild in their early stages and become worse over time without treatment. Early on, your toe is bent but still flexible, so you can move it at the joint. Eventually, hammertoes become rigid, so you can’t move them and they’re stuck in that position.
Your hammertoe may be painful, red, or swollen. These symptoms usually worsen when you wear shoes, and you may also develop pain in the ball of your foot.
Hammertoes often accompany other foot problems. You may develop a hammertoe because you have a bunion that puts additional pressure on your other toes. Because hammertoes tend to rub against your shoes, it’s common to develop a corn or callus on the joint.
Hammertoes are easiest to treat in their early stages while they’re still flexible. If you notice any changes to the appearance, flexibility, or alignment of your toe, schedule an appointment with Dr. Jurcisin as soon as possible.
If your hammertoe is still flexible, he may recommend shoes with soft, roomy toe boxes, as well as straps, cushions, or corn pads to relieve symptoms and reduce pressure on the toe. He can also file down any corns or calluses you develop as the result of your hammertoe. You may also benefit from performing toe exercises.
If you have a rigid hammertoe that doesn’t respond to conservative treatment, you may require surgery to correct the deformity. Hammertoe surgery, performed using minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques, can strengthen the joint and reduce your pain. Surgery is usually unnecessary if you get treatment early.
Schedule an appointment at Precision Footcare online or over the phone.