A hammertoe is caused by an imbalance in the muscle and ligament around the toe joint, causing the middle joint to bend. The joint becomes stuck in this position, which is why people with hammertoes often experience rubbing and irritation on the bent toe.
Any of your toes can have it. Because of the choice of footwear, it is more likely for women to have hammertoes compared to men.
Hammertoes can be serious, especially among people with diabetes or circulation issues. It is important for these individuals to see a doctor once they detect any kind of foot problems.
Kinds of Hammertoes
There are two kinds of hammertoes: flexible and rigid. Toes that can still be moved at the joint are called flexible hammertoes. They are milder than rigid hammertoes and are considered the earlier form of the problem. There are several ways to treat flexible hammertoes. On the other hand, rigid hammertoes usually require surgery. They are rigid and press the joint outside its proper alignment. A rigid hammertoe can no longer be moved.
Causes of Hammertoes
Every toe has muscles that work in pairs. When there is imbalance in these muscles, hammertoes form. The imbalance puts pressure on the tendon and joints of the toes. The pressure forces the toe to take on a hammerhead shape.
There are three main reasons why hammertoes develop: arthritis, genes, and toe injury.
Flat feet and those that have a high arch are somewhat unstable. You may have inherited these, which gives you a tendency to develop hammertoes. Toe injury is usually caused by poor-fitting shoes. Shoes that are too tight, short, or pointy can push toes out of balance. High-heeled shoes put severe pressure on your toes. Arthritis is another reason why muscles lose their balance.
A toe that appears like an inverted “V” is most probably a hammertoe. Hammertoe symptoms include:
- The bent toe hurts when you put on shoes.
- There is swelling of the toe joint, and the joint takes on a red color.
- A corn, a small patch of dead skin that has a central core, forms on the top part of the toe joint.
- The toe joint is hard to move and causes pain when you try to move it.
- The ball of foot below the bent toe hurts.
The pain and discomfort brought by a hammertoe can be relieved by doing the following:
- Wear shoes with high and big toe boxes. Your shoe should have at least half an inch of space between the longest toe and the tip of your shoe.
- Don’t use heels that are higher than two inches.
- Wear shoes that are appropriate for the activity you’re doing.
- Get hold of hammertoe pads to relieve some of the pressure that is causing pain.
- Massage the toe gently to help relieve pain.
- Apply ice packs to reduce swelling.
- Metatarsal pads that are placed properly may also help.
- A hammer toe splint can be used in the early stages.
You can prevent hammertoes by checking your feet regularly for any foot problems. It is also important to wear the right shoes and to care for your feet by allowing it to rest and giving it warm baths and massages.