Hammer Toes and Claw Toes
A hammer toe is a bending, crookedness of the toe causing the toe to look like it is clawing. The term hammer toe is almost synonymous with claw toe, the main difference being that a hammer toe affects the second toe and claw toes affect toes 3-5.
A hammer toe develops because of an abnormal balance of the muscles in the toes. This abnormal balance causes increased pressures on the tendons and joints of the toe, leading to its contracture. It may also develop as a result of arthritis, heredity, injury, or ill-fitting shoes. Although the condition usually stems from muscle imbalance, it is often aggravated by poor-fitting shoes or socks that cramp the toes. Over a period of years, the tendons that move the toe up and down begin to pull the toe with unequal tension, and the toe then begins to buckle or become contracted, causing an abnormal “v”-shaped bending of the little toes. Patients with this condition often experience pain, swelling, redness and stiffness in the affected toes.
Pressure of a hammertoe pressing against a shoe, often causes a corn to form, and is the primary reason why a hammertoe causes pain. Anything that can be done to reduce the pressure from the shoe can also reduce the pain involved.
You can help prevent hammertoes by wearing supportive shoes, wearing custom orthotics prescribed by your chiropodist (orthotics may slow the progression or prevent the development of hammertoes), and avoiding shoes with narrow or pointed toe boxes that can compress the toes.