A hammertoe is a bending of the toe at the first joint of the toe. This bending causes the toe to look like an upside down V when looked at from the side.
The second through fifth toes are most commonly affected, with hammertoes being more common in women than men.
There are two types of hammertoes; Flexible and Rigid. The flexible hammertoe is still moveable at the joint. It is less serious because it can be diagnosed and treated while it’s still in the developmental stage.
The rigid hammertoe is called that because the tendons have become tight, the joint misaligned and immobile. This type of hammertoe can be seen in people with severe arthritis or in patients who wait too long for professional treatment. Surgery is the usual course of treatment for a rigid hammertoe.
A hammertoe develops because of an imbalance in toe muscles, which causes increased pressure on the tendons and joints in the toe. This causes the bend in the toe. Arthritis, trauma, heredity and simply wearing shoes that are too tight and narrow can cause hammertoes. Both women and men can suffer from hammertoes.
The symptoms of a hammertoe can include the following:
- Pain on top of the bent toe from shoe pressure
- Corns on the top of the bent toe
- Redness and inflammation
- Joint stiffness
- Painful movement
- Pain in the ball of the foot at the base of the toe
- Open sores
Some things you can do to prevent hammertoes from forming or progressing include the following:
- Wear supportive shoes – sometimes hammertoes are related to things like flat feet
- Wear custom orthotics prescribed by your doctor – these may slow the progression or prevent hammertoes
- Avoid shoes with very high heels and/or with narrow or pointed toe boxes that compress the toes
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