Causes of Hammertoe and Treatment Options

Causes of Hammertoe and Treatment Options

Do your smaller toes look like little hammers or mallets? If so, you may have an acquired deformity of the foot called hammertoes. Luckily, Hammertoesyour podiatrists here at Oakton Foot and Ankle Center, Dr. Steven Vetter and Dr. Jugal Dharia, have plenty of experience in treating this condition! Read on to learn how our Fairfax, VA, office can resolve the problem.


How do hammertoes form?

Defined by a characteristic contracture and stiffening of the smaller toes, this condition may arise from blunt force trauma; however, it more often occurs gradually over time. Contributing to the odd shape, pain, corns, calluses, and sores of hammertoes are factors such as:

  • Wearing tight, narrow shoes and high heels
  • Heredity (the deformity runs in families)
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Poor circulation
  • An unusually high arch
  • Imbalances in gait (or how you walk)
  • Age plays a role as well, particularly if other deformities, such as bunions, exist


How your podiatrist can help

Accurate diagnosis and treatment is key to limiting the progression of hammertoes. During a consultation at our Fairfax office, Dr. Vetter or Dr. Dharia will inspect your foot and how you walk. You will also be asked about your symptoms and what worsens or alleviates them. Finally, he'll take some X-rays to assess the internal structure of your foot.

With a confirmed hammertoe diagnosis, your podiatrist may recommend several remedial strategies. Surgery is an option, too, but only if the hammertoe is very advanced and cannot be addressed by these simpler interventions:

  1. Wearing low-heeled, comfortable shoes with proper arch support and room in the toes
  2. Padding the hammertoe (moleskin is a frequent choice)
  3. Using custom-made shoe orthotics (inserts) to balance muscles, tendons, and ligaments and to correct gait issues such as overpronation
  4. Removing or padding calluses or corns on the toe
  5. Corticosteroid injections
  6. Taking over the counter ibuprofen to lessen pain and relieve inflammation
  7. Exercising (stretching your feet and toes morning and evening)
  8. Toe splints


Find out more

If you need relief from your hammertoes, phone our Fairfax office today for a consultation with Dr. Vetter or Dr. Dharia: (703) 352-8888.