Hammer Toe

Advanced Foot and Ankle Center

Board Certified Foot and Ankle Surgeons & Podiatry located in Midwood & Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY

When hammertoe first develops, it’s easy to ignore because it seldom causes pain or other problems. Ignoring it is a bad idea, however, because hammertoe gets worse without treatment. The doctors at Advanced Foot & Ankle Center effectively treat hammertoe using conservative options, but you can also count on their surgical expertise if needed to straighten your toe. If you have questions, call one of the offices in Brooklyn, New York, or book an appointment online.

Hammer Toe Q & A

What causes hammertoe?

Hammertoe affects your second, third, or fourth toes, which become deformed when the toe is bent at its middle joint. As a result, the toe takes on a shape resembling a hammer.

A hammertoe deformity is caused by an imbalance in the muscles responsible for bending and straightening your toe. If your toe is forced into a bent position and stays there for a while, the muscles tighten in that position. Eventually, the opposite muscle can’t straighten the toe, so it stays bent.

Wearing shoes that cramp your toes or force them to bend contributes to hammertoe. High-heels and shoes with a narrow, pointed toe box are common culprits.

Trauma doesn’t directly cause hammertoe, but a prior injury like a broken toe can increase your risk of developing the problem.

What are the symptoms of hammertoe?

Although the position of your toe is the first symptom, hammertoe may also cause:

  • Pain when wearing shoes
  • Corns and calluses due to friction against your shoes
  • Inflammation and redness
  • Burning sensation
  • Toe contracture

How is hammertoe treated?

Even if your hammertoe doesn’t cause much pain, it’s important to get it treated because the condition is progressive — hammertoe won’t get better on its own; it only gets worse over time.

In the early stages of hammertoe, your toe is flexible and symptoms are mild. At this point, the doctors usually treat the problem with noninvasive therapies such as exercises, toe-alignment splints, and possibly orthotics to control the muscle imbalance.

A corticosteroid injection improves your symptoms when you have severe inflammation and pain. The doctor also evaluates your shoes and helps you find new shoes with roomy toe boxes and sufficient length.

As hammertoe progresses, your toe becomes rigid and the muscles become permanently shortened. When your toe reaches this stage, surgery is needed to fix the problem and relieve your pain.

The trained surgeons at Advanced Foot & Ankle Center choose from several surgical techniques, depending on the severity of your hammertoe. Examples of surgeries to straighten your toe include a tendon transfer, joint resection, and a bone fusion. Emphasis is placed not only on the treatment of the current problem, but also on prevention of the problem returning or causing deformity to neighboring toes.

If you have questions about hammertoe treatment, call Advanced Foot & Ankle Center or book an appointment online.