Skip to main content

Does Hammertoe Require Surgery?

Does Hammertoe Require Surgery

Hammertoes are one of the most common toe deformities that podiatrists treat. Typically, a hammertoe develops in your second, third, or fourth toe. 

The problem begins when some sort of force (often from a poorly fitting shoe) puts stress on the tissues that hold the toe straight. The toe then bends in the middle joint, making the tip of your toe turn downward rather than point straight out. The resulting deformity resembles the shape of a hammer.

At FootCare Specialists, Inc. in San Mateo and Half Moon Bay, California, Dr. David J. Kaplan recommends treating hammertoes as soon as possible to avoid them becoming frozen in the deformed position. If necessary, he performs minimally invasive surgery to correct your deformity.

Why do you have hammertoes, and when do you need surgery? The answers are below. 

Why your toes look like hammers

Beautiful shoes don’t make beautiful feet. Narrow toe boxes squeeze your toes together and may force them to bend. High heels force your toes against the front of the shoe, which also can cause bending. When shoes constrict and bend your toes, the toe muscles get shorter to accommodate the position. 

You’re more likely to develop a hammertoe if you have an inflammatory joint disease, such as arthritis. Bunions raise your risk, too. Bunions push your big toe into your second toe, which may force it to bend downward. 

Hammertoe symptoms

Hammertoes may not have any symptoms at all. Over time, though, you can no longer straighten your toe.

Hammertoe can feel painful on the top or the base of your bent toe. You may also experience pain in the ball of your foot. Even moving, or trying to move, your hammertoe can hurt.

A painful corn might develop when the top of the bent toe rubs against your shoe. Patients with hammertoes also tend to develop uncomfortable calluses. 

Early treatment can correct hammertoe 

If your toe is still flexible, we treat your hammertoe with nonsurgical options. Some choices include: 

Without early treatment, the muscles and tendons stay tight, and the toe becomes fixed in its bent position. The toe remains in a state of permanent, rigid contracture.

When your hammertoe requires surgery

If your toe is stiff, unbending, and painful, you may need surgery. The most common surgery for flexible hammertoe is straightening the toe with a tendon transfer. We cut and rebalance tendons to maneuver the bent joint back into a straight position. 

Hammertoe surgery is an outpatient procedure that only takes about 15 minutes, so you go home the same day. Full recovery can take weeks. Be sure to follow your surgeon’s aftercare instructions. After surgery, you must keep your foot elevated, so plan for downtime.

If you’re suffering from hammertoe discomfort, early intervention is critical. Do you have hammertoe? Contact one of our convenient FootCare Specialists, Inc. offices to schedule a hammertoe consultation today.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Are You a Runner? 5 Tips to Avoid Black Toenails

Black toenails are common among runners. Sometimes called runner’s toe and medically known as a subungual hematoma, the ailment is caused by blood collecting underneath the nail. Read on to learn how to prevent black toenails and keep running pain-free.

RPT for Heel Pain: What to Expect

If you have heel pain, you’ve probably noticed massaging your heel makes it feel temporarily better. Massage and manipulation increase circulation to your feet to speed healing. But radial pulse therapy (RPT) does it better.

When Achy, Stiff Ankles Are a Sign of Arthritis

Is ankle pain or stiffness slowing you down? Do your symptoms increase whenever you’re active? It could be due to arthritis. This May, in honor of Arthritis Awareness Month, learn the most common signs of this condition and how to find relief.

How to Know If Your Ingrown Toenail Is Infected

An ingrown toenail is painful and can be dangerous if it becomes infected. Especially if you have diabetes, circulation issues, or numbness in your toes, you must be on high alert to treat ingrown toenails as soon as an infection develops.