Hammertoes

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Hammertoes
A type of crooked or contractured toe where the most proximal interphalengeal joint raises up, and the distal end of the toe points down.

Cause
Hammertoes are the result of a muscular imbalance between the long extensor tendons across the top of the foot, and the short arch intrinsic muscles and flexor tendons on the bottom of the foot. With years of wearing conventional footwear where the heels are elevated, toes are lifted up and squished together, the lesser toes are held in an unnatural position. Shoes that are too small may also force your toes into a curled position. Over time, your toe tendons adjust to this positioning, causing your toe or toes to hold a hammered shape. While commonly seen within family lines, a hammertoe is not innately genetic. There is, however, a genetic component for the ability of certain tendons to become contractured and tight if held improperly within footwear.

Signs and Symptoms
Hammertoe flexion may be reducible or flexible, and can also be very stiff or rigid. The following symptoms can be experienced in both a flexible or rigid hammertoe;

  • Pain at the top of the bent toe from footwear pressure
  • Pain at the base of the toe, at the metatarsophalengeal joint
  • Corns on the top of your bent toe
  • Redness and swelling in your affected area
  • Decreased joint range of motion in your affected toe joints

Recovery
Conservative treatment may be helpful, or fully corrective for a flexible hammertoe.

  • A toe-spacer like Correct Toes will encourage natural alignment of the toe
  • Metatarsal Pads will encourage top-of-foot lengthening and relaxing
  • Stretches like the Toe Extensor Stretch or Hammertoe Stretch
  • Avoiding any stretch or motion that lifts the toes into dorsiflexion. (ex. lunges, squats, and certain yoga positions)

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