Is Hammertoe Preventable?

The condition with the funny name is no laughing matter. To have a hammertoe means to have a deformity in one or more of the joints of a toe. Hammertoe affects only the middle joint of the toe. When the joint nearest the toenail is affected, it is referred to as "mallet toe.' Finally, deformity in both of these joints is referred to as claw toe. In any case, the problem can be extremely uncomfortable.

Hammertoe usually occurs in one of the middle three toes, not the big toe or the little toe. The deformity is caused by an imbalance between the muscles, ligaments, and tendons that align the toe joints. The imbalance can pull the toe up and to one side, altering its shape. The soft tissue issues may start with an injury like jamming, stubbing, or fracturing a toe. Poorly-fitting shoes that crowd the toes could also be problematic, especially if shoes prevent the toes from resting flat.

It is estimated that nearly 60 million Americans develop hammertoe at some point. Without proper care, the deformity may cause pain and mobility issues that impact daily life. The appearance of a hammertoe, as well, can be emotionally upsetting. There are a few strategies a person may try to prevent and relieve this problem. However, if the hammertoe is severe, a foot and ankle specialist should examine it.

To reduce the risk of developing hammertoe, the toes should stay straight and properly aligned as much as possible.

  • The toes must function normally not only for balance but also to prevent hammertoe. Shoes should have good arch support and a deep and wide toe box that allow the toes to rest flat. Foot specialists advise spending as little time in high heels and pointed shoes as possible.
  • Foot care. People with diabetes are often told to regularly inspect their feet. However, most people can benefit from this practice. Regular foot checkups help you find signs of joint deformity early before they cause pain. Foot care also involves elevating the feet to help blood circulate adequately, and taking periodic breaks when standing or sitting for long periods.
  • Proper use of orthotics is critical to toe joint health. Wearing a non-prescription cushion may support arches but alter the fit of a shoe to place undue stress on the toes.

The team at Northeastern Foot and Ankle can help you manage the deformity of a hammertoe. To schedule a visit to our Passaic, NJ office, callĀ (973) 473-6665.