As always I like to start out with short anatomy lesson. There are three bones in each of your lesser toes and they are called phalanges. These three bones meet up to form two small joints, they may be referenced as the “PIPJ” and “DIPJ”. Hammer toes occur with a muscle imbalance in those small toes that cause these joins to contract and fix the toes in a bent position. Sometimes your hammer toe can be flexible where you are able to straighten it out with your hand or it straightens when you step down. Other times they can be rigid or fixed in that position.
Why they form can be a combination of causes. Ill-fitting shoes that are too small will cause the toes to contract, repeatedly wearing shoes that are too small will encourage tightening and shortening of those muscles in the toes and induce a deformity. Other causes include arthritic conditions, neurologic disorders, diabetes, trauma.
The surgical procedure will vary slightly according to each patient but the fundamentals are the same. The goal is to release the contracture at the toe. This is achieved by a combination of releasing the short and tightened tendons and by resecting a portion of the small bones at the joints to make room at the joint allowing the toe to straighten. Variations included having a simple arthroplasty ( just resection of the bone), pinning of the toes to hold the correction with a removable pin and even using a small metal implant that will remain permanently to straighten the toe. These variations depend on the severity of the hammer toe, the patient goals and activities. You can discuss these options further with your podiatric surgeon to see which plan is right for you.
Length of recovery time will depend on the surgical procedure chosen. You will been given a hard bottom shoe post operatively and will have stitches in place for approximately two weeks. That part is pretty routine and uniform. The amount of time you will be refraining from full activity will depend on procedure performed, your doctor and your natural recovery abilities.