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Find out about claw and hammer toes, and how they can be treated
The lesser toe joints have three separate joints. A hammer toe describes the middle joint becoming flexed downwards towards the floor. A claw toe describes the joint nearest the midfoot extending up away from the floor and the middle and furthest joint flexing down towards the floor. Often one condition leads to the other in the affected toes.
On occasion these conditions may arise due to a recent or earlier trauma to the forefoot which stiffens the toe joints in to a certain position. Neurological conditions may also cause one particular muscle and tendon group to become overactive (spastic muscle tone) and lead to this condition over time.
However, the most common cause of claw and hammer toes is due to the toes being cramped. This can occur due to a condition known as hallux valgus which is often genetic in which the big toe begins to drift inwards at an angle towards the smaller toes. The most common cause for cramping of the toes is due to wearing ill-fitting footwear. Pointed toe footwear and well as flat footwear which is a size or too below that needed are common examples. As a result, claw and hammer toes are common in middle aged females who have historically worn ill-fitting footwear occupationally and socially for many years.
It is advisable to seek an opinion with an orthopaedic ankle and foot specialist as soon as symptoms become apparent. We are able to offer appointments with experienced clinicians who are able to examine the problematic toes and request specialist x-rays. With a combination of clinical experience, expert physical examination and the results of x-rays our specialists will be able to guide you to the most appropriate management for your individual circumstances.
Once these deformities have become fixed i.e., the joints have become rigid in their new position surgery is normally the only option to treat these conditions.
Almost all cases of claw or hammer toe will be treated with specialist insoles (orthotics) prior to surgery and often post-surgery to prevent a recurrence of symptoms. Our ankle and foot orthopaedic specialists work closely with our in-house orthotist. We have available state of the art technology to analyse each individual's gait pattern for possible contributing causes to claw and hammer toes. Orthotics are lab made and will incorporate specific contours and materials to offload the affected toe joints.
Your specialist ankle and foot surgeon will discuss the merits of different types of surgery as needed at any follow up appointment. Any questions you have will be answered by our experts.