Hammer toe/mallet toe/claw toe

Sometimes, when a hammer toe (mallet toe or claw toe) becomes rigid and causes further problems, such as referred pain or corns and callouses, surgery may be required to correct the condition.

A relatively mild case of hammer toe can be treated using self-help methods such as wearing shoes that fit properly, padding prominent areas, taking medication to reduce pain and swelling, and carrying out foot exercises to restore muscle balance. In more severe cases, steroid (corticosteroid or cortisone) injections directly into the joint may be recommended, to help reduce inflammation.

If these treatment options have been tried, unsuccessfully, then surgery may be recommended to correct the hammer toe, or to reshape or shorten the toe bones (metatarsals).

The operation may be carried out under a general anaesthetic (so you’ll be asleep) or a local anaesthetic (so you’ll stay awake but won’t feel anything). The operation usually takes less than an hour and you’ll usually go home on the same day.

There are a number of surgical techniques used to treat hammer toes depending on the severity of the condition. Milder cases may involve removing a small piece of bone from the joint to realign the toe. More severe cases may require more complicated surgery, such as releasing or lengthening tendons, putting joints back into place or changing the shape of a bone to realign the toe. Wires or tiny screws may be needed to fix the toe in place.

Immediately after surgery we’ll help you manage any pain or discomfort with painkillers. We’ll discuss your aftercare and arrange any follow-up appointments with you before you leave hospital.

In the next few days you’ll be able to walk with the aid of crutches but you’ll need plenty of rest with your foot raised. You may be given a special shoe to make sure you don’t put too much weight on the wrong part of your foot.

After three to four weeks you should be able to resume normal day to day activities.

As with any surgical procedure there can be some risks, including:

  • pain
  • infection
  • scarring
  • bleeding
  • blood clots (including deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

Specific risks of surgery in the region of the toe include:

  • nerve damage, numbnes
  • bone not healing well
  • inability to move big toe
  • pain in other parts of the foot (particularly the ball or other toes)
  • complex regional pain syndrome (can cause chronic burning pain in one of the limbs)
  • the hammer toe may return

Get in touch with Benenden Hospital

You can access treatment in a number of ways, as a self-paying or privately insured patient, a Benenden member, or as an NHS patient. In all cases, you just need to ask your GP to refer you to Benenden Hospital. For general enquiries, contact us below.

You can access treatment in a number of ways, as a self-paying or privately insured patient, a Benenden member, or as an NHS patient. In all cases, you just need to ask your GP to refer you to Benenden Hospital. For general enquiries, contact us below.