A hammer toe is a condition where a toe bends at the middle joint, causing the end of the toe to angle downward instead of remaining straight. This deformity typically affects the second, third, or fourth toe, and when viewed from the side, the toe will resemble a hammer.
The condition results from an imbalance in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding the toe, which can be caused or accentuated by several different factors, including wearing high-heeled shoes or shoes that are too cramped in the toe box. Over time, this imbalance can cause lasting deformity.
Having a bunion or a second toe that is longer than the first can also increase the likelihood of developing a hammer toe, as can having a high arch. People with diabetes or arthritis in their feet are also at increased risk.
If left untreated, over time these muscles, tendons and ligaments can tighten and the hammer toe can become permanently stuck in this position. This can cause corns and calluses to develop from the top of the toe rubbing against the shoe and an increased pressure on the tip of the toe when weight-bearing. Callusing and pain (metatarsalgia) can also occur under the ball of the foot due to an increase in pressure in this area.
If a hammer toe is still flexible and can be straightened to the correct position, there are different at-home treatments. Properly fitting shoes are crucial for all foot conditions. An orthotic insole can relieve pain by spreading pressure evenly and providing cushioning and shock absorption. Adding a metatarsal pad to the insole, just before the ball of the foot, can improve toe position and reduce pressure on the ball of the foot and toes.
Would you like to know more about common foot pain problems before making a choice? You may find one of the following blog articles useful:
Achilles Tendonitis Click here to read our ‘Foot Pain – Achilles Tendonitis?’ blog to find out more.
Diabetic Neuropathy Click here to read our ‘Foot Pain – Diabetic Neuropathy?’ blog to find out more.
Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction Click here to read our ‘Foot Pain – Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction?’ blog to find out more.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome Click here to read our ‘Foot Pain – Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome?’ blog to find out more.