Hammer toes result from a muscle imbalance which causes the ligaments and tendons to become unnaturally tight. This results in the joint curling downwards.
Arthritis can also lead to many different forefoot deformities, including claw toes.
Ball of Foot
Hammer toe is a toe that is contracted at the proximal interphalangeal joint (PIP joint - middle joint in the toe), potentially leading to severe pressure and pain. Ligaments and tendons are over tight causing the joints to curl downwards. Hammer toes may occur in any toes except the big toe. There is often discomfort at the top part of the toe due to rubbing.
Hammer toes are classified based on the mobility of the toe joints. There are two types – flexible and rigid. In a flexible hammer toe, the joint has the ability to move. This type of hammer toe can be straightened manually. For a rigid hammer toe, movement is very limited and can be extremely painful. This restricts foot movement and leads to extra stress at the ball-of-the-foot, and resulting in pain, corns, and calluses.
Changing the type of footwear worn is a very important step in the treatment of hammer toes.
When choosing a shoe, the toe box (toe area) must be high and broad to provide enough room to minimize any friction against the toes.
Other conservative treatments include forefoot products designed to relieve hammer toes, such as hammer toe crests and hammer toe splints.
These devices hold down the hammer toe providing relief to the forefoot. Gel toe shields and gel toe caps are also recommended to eliminate friction, adding lubrication and comfort.
Orthotics with metatarsal pads will reduce pressure and distribute the metatarsal heads and the ball of the foot.