Are your toes starting to curl, making your foot look more like a claw?
Do you have a buckling in your toes making it painful to wear your shoes? A hammertoe is most likely the culprit. A hammertoe is an abnormal flexing at the toe joints caused by either a tendon imbalance or a structural bone deformity. A tendon on the top of the toe being too tight can cause the toe to flex up or a corresponding tendon underneath the toe can then become too tight causing a downward flexion. This is not limited to tendons, as small capsules around each joint can also be the source of contraction. In more severe cases, bone length, size or growth can cause an abnormal curling of the toe.
In general, hammertoes (also called claw-toes or mallet-toes) are caused by three main bio-mechanical problems. It is limited to certain tendons being over utilized to stabilize certain joints of the foot or tendons being used in substitution for another weak tendon. When these bio-mechanical problems exist, it is important to evaluate the exact cause and base the treatment plan on that cause.
Similar to bunion treatment, the only way to fix hammertoes is through toe surgery. Conservative treatments involve padding, strapping and accommodating shoes. Hammertoe surgery involves a small incision above the problematic joint. The contracted tendon is released and a 1mm sliver of the deformed joint is removed. Some foot surgeons stop at this point, but to help leave the toe in a more anatomically correct position, a small silicone implant can be inserted between the crooked bones. This toe surgery is an outpatient surgery usually taking less than 1 hour. The anesthesia required is minimal, reducing many risks from toe surgery.