Hammertoes are a contracture or bending of one or both joints of the second, third, fourth, or fifth (little) toes. This abnormal bending can put pressure on the toe when wearing shoes, causing problems to develop including corns on the top of the toes. These can be both painful in shoes and unsightly. Additionally, as the toe joints continue to contract, increased pressure under the ball of the foot can lead to other foot ailments such as a painful neuromas and painful calluses.
- Pain or irritation of the affected toe when wearing shoes.
- Corns (a buildup of skin) on the top, side, or end of the toe, or between two toes. Corns are caused by constant friction against the shoe. They may be soft or hard, depending upon their location.
- Calluses (another type of skin buildup) on the end of the toe or on the ball of the foot.
- Tightness within the tendons of each toe can cause the individual toes to migrate out of position.
- Overlapping and dislocation of the toes in severe cases.
- Changes in the toenail due to abnormal pressure from the joint contractures.
- Ulceration and wounds can develop from abnormal pressure.
In earlier stages, hammertoes are flexible and the symptoms can often be managed with noninvasive measures; treatment is typically directed towards pain relief by accommodations made around painful corns and calluses. Gel pads and shoe modifications are simple measures that can offer significant pain relief. Prescription strength creams can also be effective on treating the increased skin buildup. As hammertoes become more rigid, hammertoe surgery is very effective in correcting the underlying problems associated with the contracted joints. Typically, the small joints are fused into corrected position, while contractures within the associated tendons are released. Our physicians are board certified in foot and ankle surgery and can discuss your surgical options if conservative measures have failed to give you pain relief.