Hammertoes are contracted toes that are difficult or impossible to bend. These toes become painful to the tops and ends of the toes. This makes fitting shoes difficult and painful. Hammertoes will often develop corns or calluses due to abnormal pressures.
The possible causes of a hammertoe deformities include hereditary tendencies for hammertoes to occur in members of the same family. Bunions are also caused by abnormal foot mechanics with walking. Persons who have flat feet often develop hammertoe deformities. Shoe gear such as high heels has been implicated in the cause of hammertoes as well.
The diagnosis of hammertoes is made through the physical exam and a combination of x-ray evaluation. The physical exam will reveal contracture of the toes which can be difficult to straighten.
The treatment of hammertoes begins with shoe gear changes to avoid pressure on the prominent areas. If changing shoes does not improve the symptoms strapping or padding of the toes may effectively reduce the symptoms depending on the stiffness of the toes. If conservative measures fail surgery is sometimes indicated in order to permanently straighten the toes.