Claw / Hammer Toe

Claw Toe

A Claw toe is a deformity of lesser toes which cause the toes to dig down into the soles of the shoes and create painful calluses. It is common to blame the toe deformity to wearing shoes that are too tight, too short or high heels. However it is often the result of nerve damage caused by diseases like diabetes or alcoholism, which can weaken the muscles in your foot. Claw toe gets worse without treatment and may become a permanent deformity over time.

Claw toe deformities are usually flexible at first, but they fix into place over time. Early claw toe can be treated with splint or tape to hold your toes in correct position. Wearing shoes with soft, roomy toe boxes and avoid tight shoes and high-heels, use your hands to stretch your toes and toe joints toward their normal positions and exercise your toes by using them to pick up marbles or crumple a towel laid flat on the floor.

If you have claw toe in later stages and your toes are fixed in position a special pad can redistribute your weight and relieve pressure on the ball of your foot. Extra depth shoe can be used to accommodate the deformity.

If these treatments do not help, you may need surgery to correct the problem.

Hammer Toe

A hammer toe is a deformity of the second, third or fourth toes. The toe is bent at the middle joint, so that it resembles a hammer. Initially, hammer toes are flexible and can be corrected with simple measures but, if left untreated, they can become fixed and require surgery.

People with hammer toe may have corns or calluses on the top of the middle joint of the toe or on the tip of the toe. They may also feel pain in their toes or feet and have difficulty finding comfortable shoes.

Hammer toe results from shoes that don’t fit properly or muscle imbalance and usually combination of one or more other factors. Muscles work in pairs to straighten and bend the toes. If the toe is bent and held in one position long enough, the muscles tighten and cannot stretch out.

Initial treatment starts with new shoes that have soft, roomy toe boxes. Sandals may help, as long as they do not pinch or rub other areas of the foot.

Hammer toe can be corrected by surgery if conservative measures fail. The actual procedure will depend on the type and extent of the deformity. After the surgery, there may be some stiffness, swelling and redness and the toe may be slightly longer or shorter than before. You will be able to walk, but should not plan any long hikes while the toe heals, and should keep your foot elevated as much as possible.