Yes…and no. Hammertoe is a deformity that can happen to the second, third, fourth or fifth toe and is easily recognizable by its telltale bend in the toe joint. The cause of the bending is an imbalance in the muscle/tendon structure. In some of the cases we see at New England Foot & Ankle Specialists this mechanical defect is inherited, and therefore unavoidable. In other cases, improperly fitting shoes that are too tight in the toe box can force a toe to bend under. This is particularly prevalent when one toe is longer than the rest. Sometimes, hammertoes are the result of an injury or trauma to the toe.
A Progressive Disorder
Hammertoes will only get worse as time goes on and if left untreated, the toe will become more rigid and less able to straighten out. In addition to being painful, corns and calluses may form on the part of the toe that is rubbing up against the shoe and redness and a burning sensation may occur. To fully evaluate the condition of the toe, one of our board certified podiatrists: Dr. George A. Abboud, Dr. Brian D. Tedesco, Dr. Carl Conui, or Dr. Kimberly Thurmond will order an x-ray to get a better look at the extent of the deformity. The foot doctor will take into consideration how far the hammertoe has progressed and your lifestyle to arrive at the most effective course of treatment.
If you are in a considerable amount of pain as a result of a hammertoe, the podiatrist will look to provide relief, possibly with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroid injections. Padding may also be suggested if corns or calluses have formed to protect the skin from further irritation. Going forward, choosing footwear that has a roomy toe box will be necessary to avoid cramping toes. Pointy shoes and high heels that squeeze the toes into the front of the shoe should also be avoided. The foot doctor may use splints or straps to properly realign the toe and orthotics may be prescribed to help keep the muscle/tendon imbalance under control. Surgery is a last resort if the toe has become too rigid to correct with conservative methods of treatment.
Hammertoe is best treated in its earliest stages, so if you see signs that your toe is bending and wearing shoes is becoming more painful, make an appointment at either our Reading office as soon as possible.