Alternate Names : Claw Toe, Mallet Toe
A hammertoe is a foot condition in which the one or more of the joints of the toe is permanently contracted, or curled under. This forces the toe into a claw-like position. This condition can affect more than one toe, but is most common in the second toe, which is the toe next to the big toe.
What is going on in the body?
Hammertoes are caused by a contraction of the joints. Hammertoes can be either rigid or flexible. Flexible hammertoes are more responsive to nonsurgical treatment than toes that are rigidly contracted and cannot be pressed flat. The condition can cause chronic pain from the rubbing of the toe knuckles on the inside of the shoes. If the skin breaks down and becomes blistered or ulcerated, an infection can develop. This can cause pain and swelling. In severe cases, a bone infection known as osteomyelitis can occur, which could require the toe to be amputated.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
Hammertoe can be congenital or acquired from constantly wearing tight or ill-fitting shoes. Pulling socks on too tightly so that the toes are compressed into a contracted position can cause hammertoes, as well. Acquired hammertoe is commonly found on both feet and often develops in children who rapidly outgrow their shoes. Hammertoe can also be brought on by a tight tendon, muscle weakness or arthritis.