Hammer toe (Hallux malleus): Causes and treatment

A hammer toe (Hallux malleus, Digitus malleus) is a misalignment of the toe, whereby the middle joint bends strongly upwards and points the end member to the ground – just like a hammer. This form of the disease is the result of foot malpositions, which are usually not congenital, but can develop over the course of life. These can be attributed to incorrect footwear or incorrect movement patterns while running.

With appropriate exercises, shoe soles and a conscious posture, a stronger development of a hammer toe can be prevented or a formation can be prevented. But how does a hammer toe come into being in the first place and what can be traced back to strong manifestations?

The formation of a hammer toe

In most cases, a hammer toe is not congenital, but often suggests malpositions of the feet. For example, hollow feet, bale toes or spread feet are precursors that can drive the formation of a hammer toe. These misalignments can be exacerbated by being overweight or wearing too tight shoes for years, which can jam the toes and change the arch of the foot. Due to the immobility of the muscles in case of overload or underload, the toes deform over a longer period of time and finally the so-called Hallux Malleus, the hammer toe, forms. With stronger manifestations, the big toe can deviate so much to the outside that it is pushed under the other toes or a displacement of the other toes takes place.

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A hammer toe can also occur in the event of accidental trauma. In the event of a serious accident, the pressure on the tissue can suddenly increase, which can lead to an impairment of blood circulation. If the functioning of the nerves and muscles is reduced, this can lead to the formation of a hammer toe.

Hammer toe: Symptoms and diagnosis

The hammer toe often has an external effect due to a deformation of the foot. Once this has reached a certain size, not only can severe pain occur, but the search for suitable footwear is becoming increasingly difficult. Most shoes then usually become too tight, pressing and favouring the formation of chicken eyes or swear, which can affect the toes themselves, but also footballs.

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Whether it is a strong or light expression of the hammer foot can be determined, for example, by a physiotherapist, who examines the foot more closely. The manual movement of the toe can determine whether it is a stiff or movable hammer toe. Thus, the physiotherapist can recommend a treatment that can correct the curvature of the toe or consider other methods that are suitable for the respective shape of the hammer toe.

Prevention and treatment of a hammer toe

A hammer toe can be prevented or still treated in the early stages. In the case of initial complaints, it is important to react very quickly. At the latest, if symptoms such as pressure swear are present, exercises, suitable shoes, as well as appropriate foot care are strongly recommended. Exactly what is needed to treat the individual hammer toe can be clarified in detail in the course of physiotherapy. This can help you create a custom-made exercise series to correctly counteract the misalignment. Recommendations for the right shoe inserts, a toe orthosis or other measures for care and treatment can additionally insulate the further development of the hammer toe.

Exercises against hammer toes

Sport and exercise also help with the hammer toe. In general, it is recommended to walk barefoot as often as possible and do not use stockings or slippers in your own apartment. In this way, the feet can move naturally and the foot muscles are effectively strengthened.

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With a regular foot training consisting of a sequence of certain stretching and lifting exercises, the muscles can be trained more strongly to avoid a more intense formation of a hallux malleus. To reduce pain, measures such as kinesio taping or massages can also help.

Matching shoes and shoe inserts

The health of the feet depends above all on the wearing of comfortable, healthy footwear. When buying the shoes, make sure that the feet are not squeezed and that there is still “room to breathe” in the shoe. In order to support the feet in their function, inserts are also recommended, which are made for the respective shoes and the individual foot. A padded inlay with a slight elevation can also help to support and relieve the foot. In this way, further congestion and pressure loads can be avoided and the progression of the hammer toe can be reduced. In some cases, a splint, a so-called toe orthosis, can help to correct the toe back into a healthy position or gradually straighten the curvature.

Care for shingles and chicken eyes

Excessive cornea can lead to painful swagders and chicken eyes, from which hammer toes can develop. Regular care is therefore essential to prevent “the worst”. It is important to pay attention to the nail shape, to cream the skin well, as well as to protect the toes and soles, for example with dressings, if pressure points are already present.

With the right care, suitable footwear as well as inserts and regular movement, the development of a hammer toe can be contained, so that malpositions can be corrected and an often recommended operation can be prevented.

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