If your toe permanently bends in the middle, it’s most likely a deformity called hammertoe. At Basin Podiatry in Odessa, Texas, board-certified podiatrist Hillary Brunner, DPM, can treat hammertoe effectively so you can finally wear shoes without pain. If you suspect you have a hammertoe, it’s best to have a professional evaluation. To schedule your consultation, call the office or click on the online booking tool today.

What is hammertoe?

Hammertoe means abnormal bending of the middle toe joint that can affect the second, third, or fourth toes.

Hammertoe, like bunions, is a progressive deformity that worsens over time unless treated.

In the earliest stage (flexible hammertoe), you can flatten the affected toe fairly easily. As the hammertoe progresses (semi-rigid hammertoe), the joint grows stiffer and it becomes more of a challenge to return the toe to its normal position.

An end-stage hammertoe (rigid hammertoe) is always bent, and you can’t flatten it even if you push on it.

What are the symptoms of hammertoe?

Hammertoes are easy to recognize. Many people say the bent toe looks like a hammer. The middle part of the toe sits far higher than the other toes.

A hammertoe can be quite uncomfortable and stiff. You may find it too difficult to wear shoes, or may develop a corn or callus atop the affected joint.

When you walk, you put some pressure on each of your toe joints, but a hammertoe disrupts that balance so you may put abnormal pressure on other parts of your foot. This can change your gait (the way you walk) and may cause other problems in your foot.

What causes hammertoe?

Hammertoe develops because of changes in the muscle balance in your toes. This exerts excessive pressure on the tendons and joints nearby. When the tendons tighten, they pull the joint up and the hammertoe forms.

Many factors can play into muscle imbalance in the toes, including:

  • Having flat feet or high arches
  • Wearing shoes that put weight on the toes, especially high heels
  • Having a neuromuscular disease
  • Having arthritis

Though it’s rare, toe trauma could disrupt muscle balance and lead to a hammertoe.

How is hammertoe treated?

Treatment usually involves lifestyle changes, symptom management, and strategies to prevent progression to rigid hammertoe. Dr. Brunner may provide:

  • Padding for the top of the joint
  • Taping to prevent the joint from contracting again
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Custom orthotics
  • Toe exercises
  • Cortisone injections (for severe pain)

Dr. Brunner generally recommends foot surgery for rigid hammertoe since it doesn’t typically respond to conservative care. Surgery can remove the bony growth and place pins to restore joint alignment or fuse the joint permanently.

If you need professional help for a hammertoe, call the Basin Podiatry office or click on the online booking tool today.