Hammertoe is a bending of one or both joints of the second, third, fourth or fifth toes. This abnormal bending can put pressure on the toe when wearing shoes, causing problems to develop.
Hammertoes usually start out as mild deformities and get progressively worse over time. In the earlier stages, hammertoes are flexible and the symptoms can often be managed with noninvasive measures. But if left untreated, hammertoes can become more rigid and will not respond to non-surgical treatment. Because of the progressive nature of hammertoes, they should receive early attention. Hammertoes never get better without some kind of intervention.
The most common cause of hammertoe is a muscle/tendon imbalance. This imbalance, which leads to a bending of the toe, results from structural changes in the foot that occur over time in some people.
Hammertoes may be aggravated by shoes that don’t fit properly. A hammertoe may result if a toe is too long and is forced into a cramped position when a tight shoe is worn. Occasionally, hammertoe is the result of an earlier trauma to the toe. In some people, hammertoes are inherited.
Common symptoms of hammertoes include:
- Pain or irritation of the affected toe when wearing shoes
- Corns and calluses on the toe, between two toes or on the ball of the foot. Corns are caused by constant friction against the shoe. They may be soft or hard, depending upon their location.
- Inflammation, redness or a burning sensation
- In more severe cases of hammertoe, open sores may form
Source: American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons