"Hammertoe" can be used as a general term to describe a number of digital deformities. These deformities cause the toes to appear in some way crooked, rather than normally straight. Hammertoes have a buckling
at one or more joints. The buckling may be straightened out with gentle pressure applied to the toes segments. This is called a flexible hammertoe, which is due in an imbalance in the pull of the muscles which work
around the joints of the toe. With time, the bones and joints of the toe may adapt to the buckled position. Progressively, the deformity becomes less flexible, and then finally, rigid. As the toe becomes hammered, the
cartilage in the joints may become damaged, resulting in arthritis and joint pain.
This group of deformities can result in the tips of the toes pointing downward, instead of the normal, straight ahead position. There
can be retrograde, downward force onto the bone which the toe rests on, the metatarsal. The buckling of the toe may be prominent on top. These three changes characteristic of the hammertoe can create difficulty in
fitting the foot comfortably in regular shoes. Additionally, there deformities lead to areas of high pressure and friction on the toe and bottom of the foot. The results are corn or callus formation, pain and the
possible open sores (ulcers).
Clinical examination and x-rays are useful evaluating the presence and severity of the hammertoe and any secondary arthritis.
changes in shoewear to accommodate the deformities. In milder cases, padding is used to reduce pressure, which causes pain.Functional foot orthoses (orthotics) can reduce the deforming forces which cause the hammertoes.
With more severe, rigid hammertoes, non-surgical treatments are not as effective. Surgical treatment is aimed at reducing deformity and pain.