Summer is a good time to talk about a condition we at Podiatry Center of New Jersey treat often—hammertoes. Why summer? The quintessential summer shoe, flip-flops, can increase the risk for this toe deformity. Below are some frequently asked questions about hammertoes and their treatment.

Q: What causes hammertoes?

A: An imbalance between the muscles and tendons of the toes is what leads to a hammertoe, which can occur in any toe other than the big toe. There are several factors that increase the likelihood of a hammertoe developing:

  • Heredity
  • Arthritis
  • Trauma to the toe
  • Footwear—the gripping action by the toes necessary to keep flip-flops on can lead to a hammertoe. Wearing shoes that are too short in the toe area can also cause the contracture that results in hammertoe.

Q: How do I know if I have a hammertoe?

A: The telltale sign is the bending downward of the first or second joint of the toe causing it to look like a hammer. At first, the toe may still be flexible enough to be able to straighten, but over time, it will become rigid and frozen in the bent position. Other symptoms are pain and swelling of the joint, and pain in the ball of the foot under the affected toe.

Q: Are there other concerns associated with hammertoes?

A: The further your toe bends the harder it is to fit into shoes. You may develop corns or calluses on the top of the toe from friction with your footwear. Over time, this can turn into an open wound. Wearing shoes with roomy toe boxes and using pads to protect the top of your toe may help temporarily, but will not fix the problem.

Q: What can be done to correct a hammertoe?

A: There are several treatment options that our podiatrists can use depending on how far the hammertoe has progressed. These include:

  • Taping and padding the toe to straighten it and protect it from rubbing up against the top of your shoes
  • Custom orthotics aimed at controlling the muscle/tendon imbalance
  • Surgery if the hammertoe has become rigid and cannot be moved

At Podiatry Center of New Jersey our team of doctors treat various conditions such as sports injuries, diabetic foot problems, and pediatric foot conditions, toe deformities, arthritis, nail fungus, arch problems, and heel pain. Equipped with advanced technologies and dedicated staff, our 16 conveniently located offices provides individualized high-quality care for patients across Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Ocean, Passaic, and Union Counties. For all your foot and ankle problems, contact our Wayne, NJ office at (973) 925-4111 for an appointment.