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What causes hammertoes, and what do they look like?

Causes of hammertoes

Poorly-fitting shoes often contribute to hammertoes, but do not necessarily cause the condition, according to Kentucky-based podiatrist Alan K Mauser, DPM. Ill-fitting shoes that are too tight, too short, or too pointy can push toes out of alignment by pulling and stretching the tendons of one or more toes. As a result, one tendon can get a mechanical advantage over the other tendon, and cause hammertoes. Furthermore, wearing tight, pointy shoes can worsen hammertoes if the shoes continue to squeeze tendons and toes.

Foot injuries can also lead to hammertoes. If you break or stub your toe, poor healing could result in hammertoes. Those who suffer from arthritis, diabetes, stroke, and neuromuscular conditions may be at higher risk for hammertoes, and should visit their podiatrists as soon as possible upon recognizing signs and symptoms to receive further treatment. Lastly, hammertoes can be caused from having a family history of hammertoes, or from having unstable feet with flat or high arches.

What hammertoes look like

Hammertoes earn their name as a result of causing toes to resemble hammers when toes bend at the middle joint. There are two types of hammertoes: flexible hammertoes and rigid hammertoes.

Flexible hammertoes are toes that can still be moved at the joint, and can often be treated with stretching, or by wearing wider shoes or toe splints. Flexible hammertoes are often an early, milder form of the foot condition, and can usually be treated with success.

Rigid hammertoes, on the other hand, are toes in which the tendons become too rigid and press the toe joint out of alignment. Rigid hammertoes often cannot be moved, and requires surgery for treatment. This type of hammertoe is more common in those with arthritis and can occur due to not seeking treatment immediately when symptoms first started to arise.

If you suspect you have hammertoes, schedule an appointment with your podiatrist for an evaluation. Your foot doctor can help determine the cause of your hammertoe so you can discontinue any behavior that leads to this uncomfortable foot condition. In most instances, wearing comfortable, properly fitting shoes can help correct hammertoes, as well as surgery in severe cases.

Call Kansas City Foot Specialists to schedule an evaluation at (913) 338-4440, or request an appointment online so we can determine the true cause of your injury and get you back on your feet.