There are two different types. Flexible hammertoes. These are less serious because they can be diagnosed and treated while still in the developmental stage. They are called flexible hammertoes because they are still moveable at the joint. Rigid Hammertoes. This Hammer toe variety is more developed and more serious than the flexible condition. Rigid hammertoes can be seen in patients with severe arthritis, for example, or in patients who wait too long to seek professional treatment. The tendons in a rigid hammertoe have become tight, and the joint misaligned and immobile, making surgery the usual course of treatment.
Hammer toe is most often caused by wearing compressive shoes. It might also be caused by the pressure from a bunion. A bunion is a corn on the top of a toe and a callus on the sole of the foot develop which makes walking painful. A high foot arch may also develop.
Symptoms of a hammertoe are usually first noticed as a corn on the top of the toe or at the tip which produces pain with walking or wearing tight shoes. Most people feel a corn is due to a skin problem on their toes, which in fact, it is protecting the underlying bone deformity. A corn on the toe is sometimes referred to as a heloma dura or heloma durum, meaning hard corn. This is most common at the level of the affected joint due to continuous friction of the deformity against your shoes.
First push up on the bottom of the metatarsal head associated with the affected toe and see if the toe straightens out. If it does, then an orthotic could correct the problem, usually with a metatarsal pad. If the toe does not straighten out when the metatarsal head is pushed up, then that indicates that contracture in the capsule and ligaments (capsule contracts because the joint was in the wrong position for too long) of the MTP joint has set in and surgery is required. Orthotics are generally required post-surgically.
Non Surgical Treatment
Conservative treatment is the first choice, often starting with a change of shoes to ones that have soft, larger toe spaces. Toe exercises may be prescribed to stretch and strengthen the toe muscles. Over-the-counter straps, cushions or non-medicated corn pads may be recommended to help relieve your symptoms.
Surgery may be the treatment of choice if conservative approaches prove unsuccessful. Usually performed as an outpatient procedure, the specific surgery will depend on the type and extent of injury to the toe. Recovery my take several days or weeks and you may experience some redness, stiffness and swelling of the affected toe. Your physician will recommend taking it easy and to keep your foot elevated while you recover.
Daily modifications and correct shoe choices can prevent and slow the progression of hammertoe deformities. The main cause in hammertoe deformities is muscle/tendon dysfunction. Wearing of ill-fitting, tight, high heeled shoes contributes to the progression to hammertoe deformities. Also, bunion conditions can enhance the formation of hammertoes. A key to prevention of hammertoes is the wearing of correct footwear, specifically shoes with appropriate support and a deep, wide toe box.
Normally, when you walk or run, your heel is the first part of your foot to strike the ground. As your body weight shifts to the middle of the foot, the arch of the foot naturally flattens out a bit. This flattening is called pronation. If your feet flatten more than normal, it?s called over-pronation or flat feet. Over-pronation can cause many problems, such as an Achilles tendon injury or heel pain. It may lead to knee problems.
Abnormal foot biomechanics usually causes over-use type injuries, occurring most frequently in runners. When a neutral foot pronates during walking or running, the lower leg, knee and thigh all rotate internally (medially). When an athlete with an overpronated foot runs, this rotation movement is exaggerated and becomes more marked.
Overpronation may have secondary effects on the lower legs, such as increased rotation of the tibia, which may result in lower leg or knee problems. Overpronation is usually associated with many overuse injuries in running including medial tibial stress syndrome, or shin splints, and knee pain Individuals with injuries typically have pronation movement that is about two to four degrees greater than that of those with no injuries. Between 40% and 50% of runners who overpronate do not have overuse injuries. This suggests that although pronation may have an effect on certain injuries, it is not the only factor influencing their development.
Bunions, calluses and crooked toes may indicate alignment problems. So, it is important to ascertain the condition of a client’s toes. Check the big toe to determine if the first joint of the toe is swollen, has a callus or bunion, and/or looks as though it abducts (i.e., hallux valgus) rather than pointing straight ahead. Also, look to see if the lesser toes seem to “curl up” (i.e., the person has hammer or claw toes). This may be indicative of damage to, or inflexibility of the plantar fascia caused by excessive flattening of the foot.
Non Surgical Treatment
There are exercises that you can do to help deal with the effects and treat the cause. Obviously you can opt for an insert into your shoe either by way of your sports shop or go see a podiatrist. Like anything in your body that is not working correctly; you will have to manage your condition. Don’t put off dealing with the problem as it will manifest associated issues along the alignment and as far up as your neck. If it’s mild pronantion, I suggest running barefoot. If you can’t do this then don’t wear shoes at all at home or in the office as much as possible. Give your calf muscles a huge stretch everyday as these with the ligaments from the foot up to the muscle get tight and are linked to your pain. Loosen your calf muscles as much as possible. Great exercise is to sit barefoot with a marble on the floor in front of you. Grab the marble with your toes and try to hold it tight in the middle of the base of your foot. Ping pong balls and even golf balls work. Do this each night and combined with calf stretches you’ll start to correct the muscle alignment gradually in the foot. Put more attention into massaging your feet, standing with a good posture, stretching your feet, ankles and calf muscles. Lastly, if you are fat this will not help at all. You must lose weight swimming, cycling and eradicating sugar and fat from your diet. The added strain on the foot by being a fat body compounds the problems and inhibits corrective results that you are after.
Firstly, a thorough and correct warm up will help to prepare the muscles and tendons for any activity or sport. Without a proper warm up the muscles and tendons around your feet, ankles and lower legs will be tight and stiff. There will be limited blood flow to the lower legs, which will result in a lack of oxygen and nutrients for those muscles. Click here for a detailed explanation of how, why and when to perform your warm up. Secondly, flexible muscles are extremely important in the prevention of most ankle and lower leg injuries. When muscles and tendons are flexible and supple, they are able to move and perform without being over stretched. If however, your muscles and tendons are tight and stiff, it is quite easy for those muscles and tendons to be pushed beyond their natural range of motion. To keep your muscles and tendons flexible and supple, it is important to undertake a structured stretching routine.