What Are Hammer Toe Treatment Options?

Hammer toe is a medical condition that affects the foot’s second, third, and fourth toes. With this condition, the toe’s middle joint starts to bend and stays in this bent position involuntarily. Over time, the toe becomes permanently crooked. Excess pressure on the toe’s tendons and joints leads to hammer toe.

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What other factors contribute to hammer toe?

One of the main causes of hammer toe is ill-fitting footwear. Shoes that are too tight compress the toes and make muscle movement difficult. The toes also develop corns and callouses from rubbing up against the footwear. Other risk factors include age, gender, foot size, muscle imbalance, foot trauma, diabetes, and arthritis. Women are more prone to developing hammer toe due to wearing high heels. Patients with a second toe that is longer than the first are also susceptible to hammer toe.

How do doctors treat hammer toe?

To diagnose a patient with hammer toe, doctors conduct x-rays to examine the bones and joints of the foot. Doctors will also conduct a physical exam to see the structure of the foot. Treatment options depend on the severity of the condition. Most doctors will start with non-surgical treatments. Non-surgical treatments include heating pads, ice packs, and certain medications.

Should I change my footwear?

People with hammer toe should not wear high-heeled and tight-fitting shoes. Footwear should be a low heel and deep toe box to allow movement. Patients can also place inserts and cushioned pads in the shoes to alleviate pressure on the foot. Another alternative is wearing sandals or other comfortable and roomy shoe.

Can I use a hammer toe splint?

A special type of splint called a hammer toe orthotic can help with alleviating pain symptoms. Patients can use a toe wrap which is a bandage with a Velcro strap to bind the toes together. Toe socks with gel separators have cutouts made of gel to support each toe. Patients may also benefit from a toe crest pad. This device has a ring that wraps around the toe and a pad that rests under the toe. These devices can be worn with spacious shoes.

Will exercise or physical therapy help my hammer toe?

Doctors may suggest exercises to help strengthen the toe muscles and joints. Patients can use hands to stretch and separate the toes and feet. Patients can also exercise the area by using toes to pick up and put down marbles.

Do I need to speak with a doctor?

Before starting any hammer toe treatments, patients need to meet with a physician. Only a physician can properly evaluate and diagnose hammer toe. A physician can also create a treatment plan and recommend surgical treatment options.