Hammertoes, clawtoes and mallet toes are deformities of the second, third, and/or fourth toes. In the hammertoe condition, the toe is bent at the middle joint, causing it to resemble a hammer. In the mallet toe condition, the toe is bent at the far joint, causing it to resemble a mallet. In the clawtoe condition, the toe is bent at both joints.
Although these toe deformities are actually distinct, they are often times all referred to as hammertoes.
Hammertoes are usually caused by a muscle imbalance and can be associated with a flat or high arched foot. Sometimes though, a hammertoe of the second toe may develop from a tear in the ligaments at the toe base, called a plantar plate tear. Early on you may notice that your toes have a slight bend. Overtime, the bending becomes worse and hammertoes can become stiff and inflexible.
People with hammertoe may have corns or calluses on the top of the middle joint of the toe or on the tip of the toe. They may also feel pain in their toes or feet and have difficulty finding comfortable shoes.
Treatment for the condition typically involves wearing shoes with soft, roomy toe boxes and toe exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles. Commercially available straps, cushions, or non-medicated corn pads may also relieve symptoms.
In severe cases, hammertoe surgery may be recommended to correct the deformity. In some cases, a simple tendon release may be all that is needed. In other cases, a more involved procedure may be necessary to address each specific aspect of pathology. The Doctors at Ankle & Foot Clinics Northwest have treated patients throughout Washington State with these conditions and are very familiar with the newest techniques. We would recommend a clinic appointment to evaluate the problem and create a treatment plan tailored to you.
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