Hammertoes are the result of an abnormal muscle balance in the toe that puts pressure on the joint and surrounding tendons. There are a number of factors that can cause a hammertoe to occur, including flat feet or feet with high arches, wearing ill-fitting shoes, conditions such as diabetes and neuropathy, and direct trauma.
Symptoms of hammertoe include a painful bent toe, discomfort at the ball of the foot, corns or calluses at the top of the joint, inflammation, and restricted movement. Hammertoes are usually moveable but become more rigid over time.
Because of the hammer-like bent position of the toe, this condition is usually easy to recognize by a physician. During a physical examination, a physician may move the foot and toes to see how the joint reacts. X-rays may also be used to confirm the diagnosis.
In mild cases, hammertoe can be treated with new shoes, padding, and orthotic devices to control how the foot functions. Anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy to strengthen the toe muscles may be recommended. If pain is severe and the deformity is disrupting daily activities, surgery could be required to straighten the toe.