Eliminate Hammertoes

Ellie Cherwick says she always hated her feet.
“I’ve always had problems with them, and I never have liked the way they look,” Ellie laments.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Ellie is happy to
show off her feet.

Over the years, Ellie developed hammertoes, a condition that runs in her family. Her mother and daughter also have them.
“I never had much pain until recently they started hurting,” Ellie shares. “I used to be able to wear closed-toe shoes, and it wasn’t uncomfortable. Mostly, I just hated the way they looked.
“They developed over the course of many years and got worse,” she adds. “Recently, I decided I was going to do something for myself and get the hammertoes repaired.”
Ellie sought the advice of her long-time podiatrist, Hal Bozof, DPM, in Fort Myers.

Hammertoes Defined

A hammertoe is a bending or curling of the toe, often resulting in the formation of corns or calluses as the toe deformity presses unnaturally against the patient’s footwear and/or the ground.
“Hammertoes are typically caused by a contracture,” educates Dr. Bozof. “This is an irregular and potentially permanent shortening of tendons and muscles that result in the deformity of a toe joint. Oftentimes, this is caused from a muscle imbalance in the foot that causes the toe to be dorsally contracted, meaning the toe pushes up and the end of the toe ‘hammers’ to the ground. Frequently, it is inherited or caused from wearing shoes that are the wrong fit.”
Before and after image courtesy of Ellie Cherwick.Dr. Bozof adds that hammertoes don’t develop only in older adults. They can occur in people as young as 30 or even 20 years of age, he says.
“It can develop at a young age, especially in women who wear high heels a lot,” Dr. Bozof explains. “The older we become, the more likely they are to get worse. They are more prevalent in women, but I do see men with them as well.
“Hammertoes can become very painful,” he continues. “Sometimes, they can rub against the inside of the shoe, causing a corn to occur. Unless the affected toe is straightened out, there will inevitably be an issue with corns or calluses.”
Dr. Bozof says hammertoes can lead to other serious issues.
“Sometimes, an ulcer can form as well. This results in extreme discomfort caused from the toe itself hammering against the ground and can lead to an infection. Also, painful calluses may develop on the bottom surface of the foot due to the underlying contracture of the hammertoes.”

Progressive Procedure

Dr. Bozof says hammertoes are very common today. Thankfully, he adds, a progressive, in-office procedure can eliminate hammertoes quickly and usually pain free.
In the past, Dr. Bozof describes, patients were taken to an outpatient surgery center where a large incision was made and a portion of the bone was surgically removed and a pin was inserted in order to straighten the toe. The recovery used to take four to six weeks and was sometimes painful.
“Today, however, I can perform an in-office procedure where local anesthesia is used to numb the toe. A very small opening requiring no stiches is made to release the tendon, and the toe then straightens out. Patients are only in a bandage for one day at home, and they can walk on the foot the very same day, usually without any pain.”
Ellie confirms that the procedure was painless, and she is back to enjoying working in her yard and wearing most any shoe she wants again.
“I couldn’t wait to get a pedicure once the procedure was finished,” Ellie says. “Dr. Bozof does great work. I am ecstatic with the results! I love my feet again!”

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    • Hal L. Bozof, DPM

      Hal L. Bozof, DPM, is board certified by the American Board of Podiatric Surgery and the American Academy of Wound Management. He is a Fellow of the American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeons. He completed his undergraduate degree at Me... Read More

    • Hal L. Bozof, DPM

      Hal L. Bozof, DPM, is board certified by the American Board of Podiatric Surgery and the American Academy of Wound Management. He is a Fellow of the American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeons. He completed his undergraduate degree at Me... Read More