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Hammer Toe

Kalmar Family Podiatry

Podiatry & Podiatric Surgeons located in Huntington, NY

The painful bony deformity on your toe, known as a hammertoe, may start out as a minor problem, but over time it can cause your toe to seize up completely by self-fusing. Early treatment can prevent the need for surgery in the future, and the expert team of foot and ankle surgeons at Kalmar Family Podiatry in Huntington, New York, can help realign your toes and stop your hammertoe from causing long-term disability. Call the office today to schedule an appointment or use the online booking tool.

Hammer Toe Q & A

What is a hammertoe?

A hammertoe is an uncomfortable malposition of the toes that usually develops on the smaller toes rather than the big toe. A hammertoe can affect your ability to walk in comfort, and it can become quite painful.

Your toe may swell and turn red with pressure from shoes, create hard skin called corns and calluses, and even ulcerations.  

At first, a hammertoe remains flexible, meaning it still moves at the middle joint. However, chronic hammertoes erode the cartilage in the joint leading to arthritis and self-fusing of the toe. Once the toe is rigid, the only treatment option to reduce the toe deformity is surgery.  For that reason, it’s important to seek treatment at Kalmar Family Podiatry at the first sign of developing a hammertoe.

What causes hammertoes?

Hammertoes develop due to an imbalance in the muscles and ligaments around the toe due to one’s foot. The foot misalignment causes the bottom muscles to align the toe in a bent position, creating a hammer-like deformity of the toe.

Structural factors in your feet can make you more likely to develop a hammertoe, for example, if you have flat feet or high arches, or your second toe is longer than the big toe. You can also develop hammertoes from breaking or stubbing your toes.

Hammertoes are also more common in people who have diabetes, arthritis, or certain neurological conditions. If you have a relative with hammertoes, you’re more likely to develop them in the future, particularly if you wear poorly designed footwear that squashes your feet or puts undue strain on the toes.

What treatments are available for hammertoes?

If you spot a developing hammertoe, you can counterbalance your flat or high arched feet with orthotics, and supportive shoe wear/shoes. These help stop the hammertoe from getting any worse. You may also benefit from a hammer toe splint or a silicone toe cap that our doctors can educate you on and provide for you.  

The podiatric team at Kalmar Family Podiatry can create custom orthotics that can fit into almost any shoe and provide precisely the right support and correction for your foot, counterbalancing your flat or high arched feet.

Physical therapy can provide hammer toe exercises which help by stretching the toes out to ease the joint and rebalance the ligaments, and you can buy toe spacers to help prevent the toe joint from becoming frozen in place.

Corns that develop on hammertoes may respond to over-the-counter treatments such as cushions and pads that relieve pressure on the toe, but the most effective way to deal with corns is to let your podiatrist shave them off. We at Kalmar family podiatry warn against the use of “corn removers” with salicylic acid because this product can lead to ulcerations. An injection of “cortisone” can help relieve any inflammation and pain.

If your symptoms don’t respond to conservative measures, or your hammertoe is already rigid, surgery may be advisable. A minimally invasive surgery like a flexor tenotomy may be best for flexible hammertoes, arthroplasty for those that are less flexible, and arthrodesis for rigid hammertoes. Your podiatrist can go over the options with you at your consultation and advise you on the most appropriate form of treatment.

If you have a hammertoe, don’t let it get any worse or allow rigidity to set in. Call Kalmar Family Podiatry today, or book an appointment online.