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Hammer Toe

Ankle & Foot Specialist of N.J. -  - Podiatrist

Ankle & Foot Specialist of N.J.

Podiatrists & Podiatric Surgeons located in Hillsborough, South Plainfield, Middlesex, East Brunswick & Woodbridge, NJ

If your toe curls downward instead of straight ahead, you may be suffering from hammertoe. Hammertoe is a deformity that may result from inappropriate footwear, but thankfully, the right footwear is often enough to correct it. The team of podiatrists at Ankle & Foot Specialist of N.J., led by Pragnesh Patel, DPM, and Jyotsna Thapar, DPM, treats hammertoes with conservative methods and can also perform surgical correction as needed. For your convenience, there are five New Jersey offices: Middlesex, Woodbridge, South Plainfield, Hillsborough, and East Brunswick. To make an appointment, call one of the offices or use the online booking tool.

Hammer Toe

What is a hammertoe?

A hammertoe is a toe that curls downward at the middle joint instead of lying flat. It usually affects your second, third, or fourth toe. A hammertoe is shaped somewhat like a hammer, as the name suggests.

Hammertoes often develop when your shoes don’t fit properly. Your shoes should have enough room in the toe box for your toes to lie fully flat instead of crowding your toes.

Over time, when you wear tight shoes, your toes get used to being bent downward. That may become their resting position, so they stay bent even when you don’t wear shoes. Your muscles and connective tissues “forget” how to stretch out properly.

In addition to improper footwear, arthritis and foot injuries increase your chance of developing a hammertoe. Hammertoes often accompany other foot deformities, including bunions.

What are the signs and symptoms of a hammertoe?

The telltale sign of hammertoe is a change in the appearance of your toe. It points downward instead of straight ahead.

In the early stages of a hammertoe, while the condition is still mild, your toe is flexible. You can still move the toe at the joint and straighten it out, even though there’s an abnormal bend. Advanced hammertoes become rigid and stay bent at the joint, so you can’t move them at all.

A hammertoe is often painful, red, or swollen, and these symptoms tend to get worse when you wear shoes. Hammertoes can also cause pain in the ball of your foot. Because hammertoes tend to rub against your shoes, they often lead to corns and calluses.

Schedule an appointment at Ankle & Foot Specialist of N.J. as soon as you notice any changes in the appearance, flexibility, or alignment of your toes, even if you’re not in significant pain because hammertoes are easiest to treat early on.

How is hammertoe treated?

Early-stage hammertoes that are still flexible usually respond to conservative or nonsurgical treatment. Depending on your situation and specific symptoms, your podiatrist may recommend:

  • Comfortable, supportive, wide shoes
  • Custom-made orthotics (shoe inserts) 
  • Toe exercises and stretches 
  • Cushions and pads to relieve friction
  • Filing down corns and calluses

These treatment approaches can improve the alignment in your foot and toe, reduce your pain, and prevent the hammertoe from getting worse. 

Advanced hammertoes, which are rigid and significantly painful, may require surgery to correct. The procedure to correct a hammertoe is minimally invasive and performed on an outpatient basis. With early treatment, however, you can usually avoid the need for surgery to correct a hammertoe.

Schedule an appointment at Ankle & Foot Specialist of N.J. online or over the phone.

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