For most people, toe deformities show up later in life, often as the result of wearing improper or ill-fitting footwear for many years. These deformities also can be caused by nerve or muscle damage, as well as a number of other conditions. The three most common deformities of the toe joints are similar but not the same: hammertoe, mallet toe, and claw toe. The toes have a number of joints, two in the big toe and three in the other toes. Hammertoe and mallet toe affect one joint. Claw toe affects all three joints. Hammertoe occurs when the middle joint bends down to the floor, causing the other joints to bend up. This results in a bump on the top of the toe. With a mallet toe, most common to the 2nd toe, the end joint flexes permanently, preventing the toe from straightening. Claw toe occurs when the two end joints flex and curl the toe downward. As a result the first joint compensates by hyperextending, resulting in a curled toe that looks like a claw. It often affects the four smaller toes. If you have developed any of these deformities, please consult a podiatrist for an exam and possible treatment options.
Hammertoes can be a painful condition to live with. For more information, contact Matthew McQuaid, DPM of Lake Mendocino Podiatry. Our doctor will answer any of your foot- and ankle-related questions.
Hammertoe is a foot deformity that occurs due to an imbalance in the muscles, tendons, or ligaments that normally hold the toe straight. It can be caused by the type of shoes you wear, your foot structure, trauma, and certain disease processes.
- Painful and/or difficult toe movement
- Joint stiffness
- Physical deformity
- Age – The risk of hammertoe increases with age
- Sex – Women are more likely to have hammertoe compared to men
- Toe Length – You are more likely to develop hammertoe if your second toe is longer than your big toe
- Certain Diseases – Arthritis and diabetes may make you more likely to develop hammertoe
If you have hammertoe, you should change into a more comfortable shoe that provides enough room for your toes. Exercises such as picking up marbles may strengthen and stretch your toe muscles. Nevertheless, it is important to seek assistance from a podiatrist in order to determine the severity of your hammertoe and see which treatment option will work best for you.