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Hammer Toes

A painfully bent toe limits your mobility, as well as which shoes you comfortably can wear. Narrow, ill-fitting shoes are common causes of hammer toes. Hammer toes may need just some physical therapy or a splint to straighten out, but an experienced podiatrist like Dr. Velimir Petkov knows when hammer toe surgery is justified. To avoid surgery, visit Premier Podiatry in Clifton, New Jersey as soon as you recognize the symptoms. Caught early, hammertoes are easier to treat. Call today for an evaluation.

Hammer toes are deformities of the feet that affect the second, third or fourth toe. The affected toe bends from the middle joint in such a way that it resembles a hammer. To resolve this kind of problem, a foot specialist like Dr. Velimir Petkov from Premier Podiatry in Passaic County, New Jersey first has to diagnose your hammer toe. Only then can he suggest the proper treatment for you.

Besides the appearance of the affected toe, a hammer toe often causes added foot pain. You may develop additional symptoms such as:

You’re most likely at risk of experiencing hammer toe pain if you:

  • Are a woman, as women are more prone to the condition than men
  • Are older, since your age has an impact on the condition
  • Have certain diseases, such as arthritis or gout
  • Have a second toe that’s longer than your big toe


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Reasons for Hammer Toes

Shoes are the main trigger for developing hammer toes. Shoes that are pointed, narrow and tight cause the toes to crowd together instead of remaining flat. Over time, your toes stay in that bent shape even when you walk around barefoot. Hammer toes develop as a result.

High heels can cause foot injuries, but shoes that cramp your feet are especially harmful for flat feet. Wearing high heels or poorly fitting shoes can lead to problems beyond hammer toes, such as:

To keep hammer toes from escalating, Dr. Petkov, your foot doctor in Clifton, NJ, may suggest changing the style of your shoes. If shoes aren’t your problem, an imbalance in your foot muscles, ligaments or tendons is another reason for hammer toes. This imbalance causes additional pressure to be put on the tendons and joints of your toe. Eventually, it causes the toe to bend.

The Diagnosis for Hammer Toe Relief

When you visit your New Jersey podiatrist, he checks your problem toe. The examination includes manipulating your foot to see how your toes react. If your toes don’t flex well enough and you’re feeling pain, your condition may need more aggressive hammer toe relief procedures. Only a trained, experienced podiatrist like Dr. Petkov can decide.

During your exam, you may need digital x-ray images to make sure there aren’t any other problems. You may have stubbed, jammed or broken a bone in the toe, which caused the deformity. Foot or ankle fractures can force you to walk differently. You may also have toe bone spurs that are creating additional toe pain.

How to Fix Hammer Toe

Simply switching shoes may help, especially if your hammer toes are in the early stages. Wear shoes that have a wider box around your toes. Always buy shoes that have a half-inch of leeway between your toes and the tip of the shoes.

If your hammer toes are severe, the condition may have caused your toes to bend permanently. In this case, you may need a surgical approach. Hammer toe surgery straightens your rigid toe, easing your pain and mobility issues. Less invasive techniques for getting hammer toe relief include:

  • Wearing orthotics in your shoes to relieve the pressure
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen that help reduce pain and inflammation
  • Padding for corns and calluses, if present, to keep from aggravating them further
  • Splinting to straighten your toe
  • Specialized exercises involving bunching up a towel with your toes or trying to pick up small marbles with your toes — both exercises stretch out your toe muscles
  • Physical therapy to help stretch and strengthen your toe muscles

Your treatment starts with an initial evaluation of your hammer toe. Even if you end up doing at-home self-care, you must be under the supervision of a board-certified podiatrist like Dr. Petkov. Contact Premier Podiatry in Clifton, NJ today to make your appointment.

Hammer Toes Q & A

What are hammertoes?

A hammertoe is a condition where the middle joint of the big toe bends in an unusual direction, typically inwards on the foot, and the toe is forced into an unnatural position. This condition can be rigid where the toe cannot be moved or flexible where the joint can still be manipulated. The bent toe is often exposed to increased rubbing and friction which causes discomfort and irritation of the skin.

Hammertoes most often form on the first two toes, but occasionally develop on the smallest toes. High heels and pointed shoes are often worn by women put a great deal of pressure on the toes and feet. This makes the condition more common in women than men. Those with diabetes or poor circulation are at a higher risk of developing hammertoes.

What causes hammertoes?

Muscles in the toes work in pairs, and when they become imbalanced, they can pull the delicate bones of the feet out of alignment causing a hammertoe to form. This puts a great deal of pressure on the joints and tendons which push the toe into the hammerhead shape. The extra pressure is also responsible for the pain associated with the condition. There are three common causes for the imbalance which include:

  • Arthritis
  • Injury to the toe and shoes which do not fit properly are a common cause
  • Genes – a person can inherit a tendency to develop hammer toes

How are hammertoes treated?

The first thing the doctors will suggest you do is to change to shoes with adequate space available for the toes. They may suggest physical therapy exercises to stretch the toes and release the tendons pulling the bones out of alignment. In some cases, when a hammertoe is especially severe, surgery may be required. This is usually done after other methods such as physical therapy, and anti-inflammatories have not worked.

There are several different types of surgical techniques used to treat hammertoes depending on the condition of the toe’s muscles, tendons, and joint. If surgery is needed, the doctors use minimal incision/no scar procedures to reduce recovery time and to minimize any risk of scarring.

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