It is not known exactly where the term hammertoe originated. Some say that it is because the toe looks like the head of a hammer and some say it is because people with hammertoes are sometimes tempted to hit the toe with a hammer in an attempt to straighten it.


In a "normal" toe the tendon on the top of the toe and the tendon on the bottom of the toe are in balance. The process of development of a hammertoe begins when this balance is no longer present. At this point, the toe is still flexible and can be straightened manually. There is usually no pain at this point and the deformity is termed a FLEXIBLE HAMMERTOE. As the process continues, the joint in the middle of the toe becomes more rigid and no longer bends. When this happens, the toe begins to rub on the shoe and a callous or corn begins to form. This is then called a RIGID HAMMERTOE.


The key to correcting a hammertoe is to have a result that looks and works like a normal toe. When the deformity is still flexible, the correction is very easy. The procedure is done in the office with a small amount of local anesthesia. A small puncture incision is made on the top of the foot where the toe joins the foot and a similar incision is made on the bottom of the toe. Using a very small blade; the extensor (top) tendon and the flexor (bottom) tendons are relaxed, allowing the toe to resume a normal position. A small bandage is applied to "splint" the toe and normal shoe gear is allowed to be worn. When this is done, the toe must be splinted with a bandaid for several weeks.

When the toe has been allowed to become a rigid hammertoe, it is still a relatively simple task to correct it. This procedure is done in the FORD CENTER FOR FOOT SURGERY with a local anesthetic and I.V. sedation. When this has occurred, there is generally an overgrowth of bone at the "knuckle" of the toe. An incision is made on the top of the toe and a portion of bone that is enlarged is removed. In most instances, a flexible implant is then inserted to maintain a cosmetically acceptable toe and to maintain motion in the joint. The toe is then splinted in a corrected position and a comfortable shoe is worn for several weeks.