A hammer toe is often the result of an imbalance of tendons in the foot that connect muscle to bone and control foot function. Through time, hammer toes have a tendency to get worse and can lead to significant structural deformities of the toes which may cause shoe crowding and under-lapping or overlapping toes which create abnormal pressure points. These pressure points may result in skin build up on the top of the toes, known as a corn, or in more advanced cases may result in ulcerations or holes in the toe that are part way or all the way through the skin predisposing one to complicated bone infections.
Conservative treatment of hammer toes may involve wearing shoes with more room in the toe box or using different types of pads to accommodate painful areas. In some cases, prior to surgery, your podiatrist may recommend a custom arch support in which wet plaster is molded to the foot to capture the foot’s deformities from which an arch support unique to only your foot is fabricated and placed under the foot to slow down deforming forces responsible for hammertoe formation.
Surgical correction of a hammer toe may involve removing a small piece of bone from the toe and holding it in place with a wire or in some cases a joint replacement. Proper preparation for surgery involves taking x-rays to analyze the bone’s structure and extent of the deformity and selection of surgical procedure. Surgery is done on an outpatient basis and will require medical clearance from your primary care physician. Post-operatively the patient will have to wear a post-operative shoe or boot and will have very specific weight bearing / non-weight bearing instructions from their surgeon.