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Toe Deformities

Steven P. Royall, DPM -  - Podiatrist

Mountain View Foot Clinic, LLC

Steven P. Royall, DPM

Podiatrist located in Lehi, UT & Murray, UT

When you wake up and see a middle toe that’s swollen to twice its normal size and curls downward toward the bottom of your foot, your first call should be to a podiatrist. You have a hammertoe. Dr. Steven P. Royall, DPM, with Mountain View Foot Clinic, LLC, in Lehi and Murray, Utah, treats many cases of hammertoe, providing fast relief. Don’t hesitate to call or book an online appointment with Dr. Royall today.

Toe Deformities Q & A

What is a hammertoe?

Hammertoe is a foot impairment in which the toe curls downward toward the bottom of the foot. The middle joint of the toe bends and gets stuck in its bent position, resulting from an imbalance in the muscles and ligaments surrounding the toe joint. The joint swells and may become red with inflammation. Wearing shoes hurts when the top of the bent toe rubs against the inside of a shoe. The middle three toes are the most prone to a hammertoe deformity.

What causes a hammertoe?

The muscles of each toe work in pairs. When the toe muscles don’t work together, they are out of balance, and a hammertoe can form. Muscle imbalance puts a lot of pressure on the toe's tendons and joints. This pressure forces the toe to curl inward.

Risk factors for hammertoes include:

  • Genetics. You could have inherited a tendency to develop the condition.
  • Arthritis and aging. Wear and tear on your joints can be the culprit in some hammertoe cases.
  • Shoes. Shoes that don’t fit well can cause hammertoes.
  • Being female. Many women wear pointed high heels which create heavy pressure on the toes.

What is the best treatment for hammertoes?

A flexible hammertoe still moves up and down at the joint. Several treatment options are available; this is a mild form of the condition.

  • Medication. Dr. Royall can prescribe drugs to calm inflammation can ease pain and swelling.
  • Steroid injection. Injections usually provide significant relief within 24-48 hours.
  • Orthotics. Dr. Royall may prescribe orthotics, custom-made insoles that help correct your toe mechanics.
  • Night splint. If you can tolerate a night splint, this device can help stretch the tendon gently.
  • Physical therapy. Dr. Royall prescribes either exercises or physical therapy to strengthen your muscles and get them working together properly.

If the toe joint has become rigid, the muscles and ligaments cannot be aligned, and surgery is required. Dr. Royall uses a conservative surgical procedure called a flexor tenotomy to repair a hammertoe. He cuts the tendon to stretch the muscle which is stuck in place by the hammertoe. If the hammertoe is severe, the procedure is done while you are under general anesthesia, and he cuts the tendon vertically to lengthen it.