Hammertoe is a contracture (bending) deformity of one or both joints of the second, third, fourth, or fifth (little) toes. This abnormal bending can put pressure on the toe when wearing shoes, causing problems to develop.
Hammertoes usually start out as mild deformities and get progressively worse over time. In the earlier stages, hammertoes are flexible and the symptoms can often be managed with noninvasive measures. But if left untreated, hammertoes can become more rigid and will not respond to nonsurgical treatment.
Because of the progressive nature of hammertoes, they should receive early attention. Hammertoes never get better without some kind of intervention. Hammertoes may be caused by:
- Muscle/tendon imbalance
- Inherited defect
- Ill-fitting shoes
Common symptoms of hammertoes include:
- Pain or irritation of the affected toe when wearing shoes
- Corns and calluses
- Contracture of the toe
- Open sores (in severe cases)
There are a variety of treatment options for hammertoes including non-medicated pads, changing footwear, orthotics, corticosteroid injections, splints, straps, and medications including ibuprofen. Surgery is sometimes needed in serious cases.