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What Are Hammertoes?  How Do You Fix Them?

What Are Hammertoes? How Do You Fix Them?

Posted by Helén Kirk O'Hare on 9th Mar 2017

What are hammertoes?
A hammertoe is essentially a painful deformity that causes the middle of a toe to bend upwards, thus resulting in a "hammer".

A hammertoe can occur when the muscles in your toe no longer work together and they get out of balance so to speak.  This imbalance causes a lot of pressure on the toe's tendons and joints, which in turn force the toe into a hammer-head shape.

There are three main reasons why the muscles can get out of balance:

i) Genes: unfortunately you may have inherited a slightly unstable foot i.e. you may have a flat foot or on the other end of the scale, a high arched foot. Both can cause a hammertoe to develop.

ii) Arthritis

iii) Injury: the main cause of injury to the toe is when you wear ill fitting shoes.  Whether they are too pointy, too tight or too short.  A lot of women suffer from hammertoes because of their tendency to wear high-heeled pointy toed shoes, which put an awful amount of pressure on the toes.

Types of hammertoes

a) Flexible hammertoes: if you can still move your to at the joint it is known as a flexible hammertoe.  The is the less severe type as there's still room for different treatment options.

b) Rigid hammetoes: if you can't move your toe anymore because the joint has already been pressed out of alignment by rigid tendons, then it is known as a rigid hammertoe.  The only way to fix this is through surgery.

What are the options for surgery?

Joint resection: An incision is made near the top of the toe.  Tendons and ligaments may be cut to help strengthen the toe.  In addition the end of the bone is taken out to also aid in the straightening (realignment) of the toe.  Pins are added which are usually removed a few weeks later.

Fusion: Similar to joint resection the tendons and ligaments are cut to allow for straightening of the toe.  In this method the ends of the bone are cut (not removed) and the toe is straightened.  Screws and pins are added to keep the toe straight while the bone ends heal (fuse) together.

OK, what shoe options are there if I don't want surgery?

Many people opt for shoes where the whole of the upper is made from a sretch material, like the Pedors Classic or Pedors Classic Max.

However, the most popular shoe for hammertoes is the sport styled Pedors 800 Stretch Walker.