Definition: a claw-like deformity of a toe, usually the second or third, in which there is flexion of the second and third interphalangeal joints
Medical terminology: hammer toe, claw toe, mallet toe
What is a hammer toe?
Hammertoe is a contracture of the little joints (interphalangeal joints) of the toes and is common in the second, third, fourth, or fifth toes. The claw-like deformity can cause abnormal pressure on the toe when wearing shoes, causing problems to develop.
Hammertoes usually start out as a flexible deformity with mild to no symptoms that can often be managed with non-invasive measures. Because of the progressive nature of hammertoes, hammertoes get progressively worse over time. If left untreated, hammertoes can become more rigid and will not respond to non-invasive, conservative treatment.
Common symptoms of hammer toes
- Difficulty wearing certain shoes
- Pain or irritation of the affected toe when wearing shoes
- Corns and calluses on the top of the toe, between toes, or on the ball of the foot
- Red, warm, swollen toe or a burning sensation
- Flexed, claw-like bending of the toe
- Open sores (ulcers) may form in more severe cases of hammertoe
What are common causes of a hammer toe?
Muscle/tendon imbalance caused by:
- Poor biomechanics of the foot
- Muscle atrophy (loss of muscle) due to diseases
- such as Diabetes, Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT)
- Bony changes due to conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis
- Toes are forced in a cramped position
- Tight or narrow footwear
- Shoes are too small