When Is Surgery the Best Option for a Hammertoe Deformity?

Apr 06, 2023
When Is Surgery the Best Option for a Hammertoe Deformity?
Are your hammertoes causing you discomfort? Or are you embarrassed to wear sandals due to the deformity? Read on to find out when surgery is recommended and what it entails.

A hammertoe deformity is one in which the toe curls down because of a problem with the joint instead of lying straight. Due to the unnatural position of their toes, those with hammertoe can experience pain, corns, and calluses.

Kenneth Meisler, DPM, our expert, has decades of experience treating hammertoe with both conservative and invasive treatments. To help you out, we asked him about what causes hammertoe, what treatments are available for the deformity, and when surgery is needed to fix the problem. 

Common causes of hammertoe 

Toes have two joints: one at the base that connects it with the rest of the foot and one in the middle. 

Hammertoe occurs when the middle joint is bent or stretched. The most common causes of hammertoe are arthritis, pressure from ill-fitting footwear, and high-arched feet. The condition can occur on any toe, but the second and third toes are most likely to experience it. 

Bunions can also contribute to the development of hammertoe. When the big toe shifts towards the rest of the toes, it crowds them, putting pressure on the toe joints. 

Peripheral nerve damage, often caused by poorly controlled diabetes, can also increase your risk for hammertoe.

Treatments available for managing hammertoe

If the symptoms are mild and the deformity isn’t too advanced, Dr. Meisler may recommend wide-fitting shoes and insoles for high foot arches. For diabetics, controlling blood sugar levels and regular appointments with a podiatrist can help with the management of hammertoe. 

Some people experience blisters, we can prescribe over-the-counter creams to manage them. 

When surgical intervention is a must

Surgery is a must when a hammertoe causes pain, makes it difficult to walk or flex your toes, or negatively impacts the aesthetics of your toes to the point where finding shoes that look and feel good is difficult. 

What does surgery entail?

During surgery, Dr. Meisler decompresses the problematic joint, or joints if more toes are affected, and puts a wire in place to ensure the toe heals in a straight position. The wire doesn’t cause any pain and is removed three to six weeks after the surgery. 

Recovery time lasts anywhere between six to eight weeks, but some people can go back to wearing shoes in as little as two weeks. 

During the first few days after surgery, you’ll wear a walking boot and may see some swelling and inflammation. This is a normal part of the healing process. 

Find out what you can do about your hammertoe

If your hammertoe causes you pain, or if you simply hate not being able to feel confident while wearing open-toed shoes, contact us to schedule an appointment. Dr. Meisler has extensive experience treating hammertoe and can help you relieve your discomfort.