What Causes Toe Pain?

Each of your feet has 26 bones, more than 30 muscles and numerous tendons and ligaments that work together to bear and propel your body weight during standing, walking and running. Bones provide support, ligaments provide stability and muscles and tendons provide movement. Essentially, hammertoes are caused by an abnormal interworking of the bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons that comprise your feet. When muscles fail to work in a balanced manner, the toe joints can bend to form the hammertoe shape. If they remain in this position for an extended period, the muscles and tendons supporting them tighten and remain in that position.

Orthotics, custom orthopedic foot supports, can help with mild hammer toes and bunions. They aren’t a cure, but orthotics can make certain types of shoes more comfortable. Orthotics may slow down or perhaps prevent the progression of bunions and hammer toes. However, once the hammer toes and bunions become too large or severe an orthotic becomes just another thing occupying space in a crowded shoe. How does the nursery rhyme go? There was an old lady living in a shoe with so many hammer toes and bunions she didn’t know what to do.

Implant arthroplasty. In this procedure, the surgeon inserts a silicone rubber or metal implant specially designed for the toe to replace the gliding surfaces of the joint and act as a joint spacer. The patient’s physician may also suggest exercises to be done at home or at work to strengthen the toe muscles. These exercises may include picking up marbles with the toes and stretching the toe muscles. All corrective toe procedures usually have good outcomes in relieving pain and improving toe mobility. They restore appropriate toe length and anatomy while realigning and stabilizing the joints in the foot.mallet toe surgery recovery time

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If you’ve worn tight shoes for many years and think you have hammertoes that require more care, then we strongly recommend seeking help from a medical professional. An experienced podiatrist may be able to offer you a treatment plan specific to your needs. The sooner a foot problem is treated, the easier it is to correct. People who have painful hammertoes visit their podiatrist because their affected toe is either rubbing on the end their shoe (signaling a contracted flexor tendon), rubbing on the top of their shoe (signaling a contracted extensor tendon), or rubbing on another toe and causing a painful buildup of thick skin, known as a corn.

Hammertoes are a type of crooked toe that involve unnatural contracture, or bending, of your toes. In most cases, a hammertoe is characterized by a toe malposition in which the end of your affected toe points down and the first joint of your same toe—your proximal interphalangeal joint—points up. This crooked toe syndrome usually leads to rubbing within your shoe and pain. A hammertoe resembles an upside-down letter v when viewed from the side. This crooked toe syndrome most commonly affects your second to fifth toes, though it may also affect your big toe. This health problem is more commonly experienced by women than men.


What Is Hammertoe

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A hammertoe is a crooked toe that is painful because the first knuckle of the toe sticks up and rubs on the toe box of the shoe. A mallet toe is a toe in which the last joint is bent downward at a right angle so that the tip of the toe is pushed into the sole of the shoe. A claw toe is a toe that is bent at both joints so that it is shaped like a claw. Pain in the ball of the foot is common with hammertoes and claw toes. Each of these deformities occurs because of muscle imbalance of the toe.

Avoid pointed toe shoes. The pointed and small toe box can cramp the foot and toes leading to problems such as hammer toes, bunions, calluses, blisters, and neuromas. There should be at least ½ inch of space between your toes and the front of the shoe. So what are bunions and hammer toes? A bunion (hallux valgus) is a boney bump behind the big toe. A hammer toe (claw, mallet, deformed toe) is a toe that is curved or curled when it should be straighter. And a tailor’s bunion (bunionette) is a boney bump behind the pinky toe.

People with crooked toes should wear comfortable, roomy shoes that allow their toes space to keep a normal position as much as possible while in footwear. Avoiding high heels and having shoes with good arch supports helps to disburse weight and pressure evenly throughout the foot to alleviate heel and ball pain as well as toe strain. Hammertoes are a relatively simple foot issue to deal with, and those suffering from hammertoes generally have success with a change in shoe choice as well as at-home treatment options. Some of the most important features required in shoes for them to be suitable to wear with bunions are listed below.mallet toe splint

Treatment of mallet toes requires either padding to push the toe end back upward (called a crescent pad), padded inserts under the toe to reduce pressure directly to the toe tip, or surgery to straighten the toe. A simple procedure to produce this straightening involves releasing the tight tendon under the toe. This can often be performed in the office setting, and it heals with only a stitch or two in the skin. Sometimes more rigid or complicated cases need surgery to reduce bone at the joint to help the toe return to a straightened position.

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Nonsurgical therapy generally starts with choosing shoes which allow for more space around the toes. There are also various pads and splints available which can help realign the toe, but these generally are more for comfort and do not provide permanent correction. I carry several of these in my office, and many can be found at specialty shoe stores. Addressing the overall alignment of the foot and supporting the arch with an orthotic can be helpful as well. We see patients all the time wearing inappropriate shoes for the activity,” said Dr. Christian Royer, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in foot and ankle surgery at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.

All three surgeries are same-day surgeries. With the tendon transfer, and the digital arthroplasty, recovery time is about two weeks. The digital arthrodesis procedure will take six to eight weeks, before a shoe can be worn. The foot will be in the healing process for the next year. Even though the toes are straightened, there is no guarantee that the toes will stay that way. Many times the Hammer toe will come back. In some cases with bone removal, the bone will regrow. There you go folks, a lot of information about hammer toe. Believe it or not I pared it down. Thanks for reading PJ Harris, LMP

The doctor may recommend non-invasive treatment methods for flexible hammer toe, such as wearing shoes that fit well and have plenty of room in the toe box, as well as a low heel. Orthotic shoe inserts may be used to reposition the toe and lessen foot pain by inhibiting the toe from rubbing on the shoe, becoming irritated. Custom orthotic shoes may provide relief of hammertoe pain. Hammer toe may lead to the development of corns or calluses, which can be treated with over the counter remedies (like Moleskin) to relieve pain and irritation. Cutting corns or calluses, is not recommended at home, as this may cause infection.mallet toe causes