When the joints in the small toes remain bent or bowed for a long time, the tendons tend to shrink and the toes stiffen into a clawlike or hammer shape. The results are pain at the top of the bent toe, redness and swelling in the joints, corns at the top of the joint, and pain in the ball of the foot. Pittman-Osula says the pain she experienced came from calluses on top of each affected toe, which rubbed against the top of her shoes. The curvature of her toes also caused the tips to become callused from the pressure of walking, she says.
During recovery, remember that you should not do much too soon, as this can increase your cause of re-injury. It is important to discuss specific guidelines for exercise after hammertoe surgery with your doctor. Upon full recovery, you may need to get fitted for new running shoes, as your surgery might change your gait and stride. Wear running shoes that fully support and protect your feet and give your toes sufficient wiggle room. Warning Mayo Clinic Health Letter is an eight-page monthly newsletter of reliable, accurate and practical information on today’s health and medical news. To subscribe, please call 800-333-9037 (toll-free), extension 9771, or visit Mayo Clinic Health Letter Online
The toes may seem small and relatively insignificant, but they are vital to walking and working. There are at least six sets of muscles that control each toe. Two tendons join on the dorsal aspect (top) of the toes, and insert into the middle and distal phalanges of each toe. On the bottom (plantar aspect) of the toes are two more muscles that, instead of joining like the extensors, remain separate. Each muscle stabilizes one of the bones in the toe. The flexor digitorum longus muscle attaches to the bone at the end of the toe (distal phalanx) and the flexor digitorum brevis attaches to the middle phalanx.
A podiatrist can prescribe a functional orthotic for hammertoe. This orthotic will slow down the development of the deformity and may even reverse it over time. The orthotic usually attaches to the back of the toes using a toe loop that wraps around the toes like a ring. It is designed to reduce forefoot pain, relieve stress on the metatarsals and reduce irritation on the tips of the toes. Over time the orthotic can help to equalize the underlying muscular imbalance that is causing the hammertoe in the first place. These orthotics should come in different sizes and should be replaced frequently.
Introduce gentle straightening exercises as your strength improves. Stretch your calf muscles several times a day, especially if you have been sitting for a long time or upon getting out of bed in the morning. Stretch each of your toes by gently pulling them straight out with your fingers and bending them upward. Go slowly-your flexibility will build over time. Step 4 Hammertoe and mallet toe are two foot deformities that occur most often in women who wear high heels or shoes with a narrow toe box. These types of footwear may force your toes against the front of the shoe, causing an unnatural bending.