A hammer toe forms when the middle joint of one of the small toes is flexed or bent, causing it to look like a hammer. Since the tip of the toe is pointed down, it causes corns and calluses at the top of the joint and/or the tip of the toe and can be painful. This, of course, makes it difficult to walk around comfortably and find shoes that fit properly.
There are different conditions that often lead to the formation of hammer toes. A common cause is a muscle imbalance in the foot, which can be due to a stroke or diabetes. People who have diabetes or a neurological condition lose sensation in their feet and toes, which means they are not able to feel the discomfort usually caused by a hammer toe. When that occurs, the real danger is that they also do not feel the callus forming, which then turns into a blister, then a sore, and then an infected toe, which is a serious condition. Last, but not least, tight and narrow shoes, like high heels, that pinch and force the foot into a stressed position are notorious for causing hammer toes.
Hammer toes are often treated with surgery. If the hammer toe is still flexible, the surgeon can move and readjust the tendons of the toe. If the hammer toe is fixed, the surgeon may need to remove some of the bone of the toe. If the hammer toe heavily involves one or more of the joints of the toe, surgery on those joints may also be necessary. All in all, the type of surgery needed depends on the look and shape of the toe in relation to the rest of the foot.
The best thing to do to prevent hammer toes is to wear comfortable shoes that are a half inch longer than your longest toe (which is often the second toe).This could mean giving up those stylish heels! There are also exercises that you can do which improve muscle balance and flexibility, like using your toes to pick things up of off the floor or scrunching a towel with your toes. At the very least, there are over-the-counter devices that help reposition and rebalance the muscles of your toes and feet.
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