What is a hammertoe? What can I do about it?
A hammertoe is a crooked toe that is the result of tendon imbalance. Most individuals with hammertoes have either a high or low arch. In these types of feet, the toes are pulled up by the unequal pull of the tendons. Shoes can rub the tops of the toes and cause irritation and corns. The ball of the foot can be sore from the crooked toe pressing down. Callouses can buildup under the ball of the foot and cause pain. Hammertoes develop slowly over time, but pain may come on quickly and suddenly as a result of a corn or a blister.
Hammertoe/corn pads can help keep the pressure off the tops of the toes. The pad should have a hole that is placed over the corn or area of irritation. This helps to disperse the pressure from the shoe and relieve the pain. Foam sleeves will also accomplish this. The foam sleeves or gel sleeves slide over the toe and add cushion along the entire toe. Choose foam for more cushion, use gel for cushion without the bulk. Don't use medicated corn pads on the hammertoes. The medication will not change the hammertoe and may only irritate the corn.
Hammertoe cushions and buttress pads can also be used for hammertoes. These pads are placed under the toes to help straighten the toes while walking. This will take pressure off the tops of the toes as well as limit pressure on the ball of the foot. These products only work on flexible or semi-flexible hammertoes. Rigid hammertoes (one which will not bend or don't straighten with standing) will not respond well to buttress type padding.
The toe box of the shoe should be wide enough and deep enough to allow room for the toes. The toe box should be soft and flexible to help accommodate for the toes.
If changing shoes, wearing hammertoe pads and using buttress pads don't help, surgery may be needed. Hammertoe surgery involves taking out the joint in the toe and straightening and stabilizing the toe with a pin. In some cases, the toe joint is fused. Although the surgery is fairly simple, straightforward and has a relatively short recovery time of 6 weeks, the toes can remain swollen for many months. Discuss the options with your podiatrist.
More information and illustrations on hammertoes.
last updated 4/22/15
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