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Hammer Toe
Hammer Toes: If one of your toes appears crooked or misshapen, chances are you have a hammer toe.

A hammer toe, sometimes known as a clawed toe, crooked toe or mallet toe, can form on your feet regardless of age or sex.

What Causes a Hammer Toe?
A muscle imbalance from an unnatural walk is one of the top causes of a hammer toe, although genetics can also play a role in why you develop a hammer toe as well.
  • Do you have a very long second toe? Is the top of that toe often crowded into a bent position? If so, you could have a hammer toe.
  • Do you have a stiff tendon that prohibits a toe from resting flat? Again, you could have a hammer toe.
  • Is a bunion on your big toe forcing your second toe into a cramped position? You might want to think about going to the podiatrist to determine if you have a hammer toe.

Other common causes of a hammer toe include:
  • Ill-fitting shoes that put pressure on the toes in an unnatural way can result in a hammer toe.
  • High-arched feet, where the tendon on the top of the foot pulls back on the toes, can lead to the development of a hammer toe.
How a Hammer Toe Forms
A hammer toe forms when your foot is flattened, and greater than usual stress is placed on your foot. (People with flat feet, then, are especially at risk.)

A hammer toe initially takes the form of a callus. Ongoing chafing leads to corns or, on occasion, ulcers. As the tendons on the bottom of your feet try to stabilize each foot, the muscles controlling the toes feel the added pressure, and your toes pull back, forcing the knuckles to become prominent. A hammer toe results.

As your hammer toe worsens, walking can become extremely painful and difficult. The misshapen hammer toe may hit shoes at the wrong spots, causing friction. Fashionable shoes are not made to accommodate a distorted hammer toe. As contact continues between a gnarled hammer toe and the shoe, irritation sets in.

Once a hammer toe is fully retracted, it is difficult to straighten out.

Relieving and Preventing Hammer Toe Pain
The easiest way to avoid developing a hammer toe, especially if you have flat feet, is to make sure your shoes have a wide toe box. Shoes that provide extra depth and more room help relieve the pressure put on feet from standing and walking.

Other ways to treat a hammer toe include:
  • Use corn pads and cushions for temporary relief from hammer toe pain caused by friction.
  • If your hammer toe stems from flat feet, shoe inserts and orthotics can help provide support, encouraging the muscles to work together as a team.

If you have a hammer toe, and your toes look severely bent and cannot be straightened out with treatment, surgery may be required. See a podiatrist for a consultation.

Information on foot, leg and lower body health conditions provided by The Podiatry Institute, dedicated to advancing the standard of care in podiatric medicine and its effects on muscoskeletal health.

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