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Hammer toe (also called claw toe or mallet toe) is where one or more of the middle toes appear bent. The condition causes the toes to stick out, causing shoes to rub and sometimes affecting the way you walk.
Hammer toe can cause further problems to develop such as blisters, calluses and corns, and, if it causes stress on the ball of the foot this can lead to referred pain (metatarsalgia) in other areas of the foot. Hammer toes can be a serious problem for people with poor circulation or diabetes.
If you have hammertoe, and non-surgical methods have been unsuccessful, surgery may be required to correct the condition or to reshape or shorten the toe bones (metatarsals).
Treatment for hammertoe ranges from 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. Surgery may also be recommended to correct the hammertoe.
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.