A hammer toe is when a toe bends at the middle joint, so the end of the toe is angled down instead of straight. This is a deformity that usually affects the 2nd, 3rd or 4th toe and when viewed for the side the toe will resemble a hammer. It is caused by an imbalance in the muscles, tendons and ligaments around the toe. This imbalance can be caused and accentuated by several different factors. Wearing high heeled shoes or shoes that are too cramped in the toe box can cause the toe to curl and over time this can cause lasting deformity.
Having a bunion or a 2nd toe that is longer than the 1st can also increase the likelihood of developing a hammer toe, as can having a high arch. People with diabetes or arthritis in their feet are also at increased risk. If left untreated, over time these muscles, tendons and ligaments can tighten and the hammer toe can become permanently stuck in this position. This can cause corns and calluses to develop from the top of the toe rubbing against the shoe and an increased pressure on the tip of the toe when weightbearing. Callusing and pain (metatarsalgia) can also occur under the ball of the foot due to an increase of pressure in this area.
If a hammer toe is still flexible and can be straightened out to its correct position, there are different treatments people can try at home. As with all foot conditions a properly fitting shoe is very important. An Orthotic insole can help relieve pain of hammer toes by evenly spreading pressure throughout the foot and providing cushioning and shock absorption. Adding a metatarsal pad to the insole just before the ball of the foot can improve the position of the toes and will reduce pressure on the ball of the foot and the toes.
Would you like to know more about common foot pain problems before making a choice? You may find one of the following blog articles useful:
Achilles Tendonitis Click here to read our ‘Foot Pain – Achilles Tendonitis?’ blog to find out more.
Diabetic Neuropathy Click here to read our ‘Foot Pain – Diabetic Neuropathy?’ blog to find out more.
Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction Click here to read our ‘Foot Pain – Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction?’ blog to find out more.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome Click here to read our ‘Foot Pain – Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome?’ blog to find out more.