Hammer toes is caused when the middle joint (PIP) bends down towards the floor (flexion). To compensate, the joints above and below (MTP, DIP) bend up (hyperextend). The result is that the middle part of the toe lifts up. Hammertoe is the most common deformity of the lesser toes (i.e. not the big toe). It tends to only affect one toe, most commonly the second.
While there are a number of causes, there aren't many specific risk factors for hammertoes, women tend to get these problems more than men, but they occur without rhyme or reason. Diabetics, however, are more likely to get a hammertoe if they have underlying nerve damage in the toes and feet.
A toe stuck in an upside-down "V" is probably a hammertoe. Some symptoms are, pain at the top of the bent toe when putting on a shoe. Corns forming on the top of the toe joint. The toe joint swelling and taking on an angry red colour. Difficulty in moving the toe joint and pain when you try to so. Pain on the ball of the foot under the bent toe. Seek medical advice if your feet regularly hurt, you should see a doctor or podiatrist. If you have a hammertoe, you probably need medical attention. Ask your doctor for a referral to a podiatrist or foot surgeon. Act now, before the problem gets worse.
Some questions your doctor may ask of you include, when did you first begin having foot problems? How much pain are your feet or toes causing you? Where is the pain located? What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms? What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms? What kind of shoes do you normally wear? Your doctor can diagnose hammertoe or mallet toe by examining your foot. Your doctor may also order X-rays to further evaluate the bones and joints of your feet and toes.
Non Surgical Treatment
Changing the type of footwear worn is a very important step in the treatment of hammer toes. When choosing a shoe, make sure the toe box (toe area) is high and broad, and can accommodate the hammer toes. A shoe with a high, broad toe box will provide enough room in the forefoot area so that there is less friction against the toes. Other conservative treatments include using forefoot products designed to relieve hammer toes, such as hammer toe crests and hammer toe splints. These devices will help hold down the hammer toe and provide relief to the forefoot. Gel toe shields and gel hammertoes toe caps are also recommended to eliminate friction between the shoe and the toe, while providing comfort and lubrication.
If you have a severe case of hammer toe or if the affected toe is no longer flexible, you may need surgery to straighten your toe joint. Surgery requires only a local anesthetic (numbing medicine for the affected area) and is usually an outpatient procedure. This means you don?t have to stay in the hospital for the surgery.
Prevention of a hammer toe can be difficult as symptoms do not usually start until the problem is well established. Wearing shoes that have extra room in the toes may help the problem or slow down its development.