Definition

What is a hammertoe?

Hammertoes are foot deformities that occur due to an imbalance in the muscles, tendons or ligaments that normally hold the toe straight. The type of shoes you wear, foot structure, trauma and certain disease processes can contribute to the development of these deformities.

A hammertoe has an abnormal bend in the middle joint of a toe. Hammertoes usually occur in your second, third and fourth toes.

How common is a hammertoe?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of a hammertoe?

The common symptoms of a hammertoe are:

  • A toe that bends downward
  • Corns or calluses
  • Difficulty walking
  • Inability to flex your foot or wiggle your toes
  • Claw-like toes

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

See your doctor if you have persistent foot pain that affects your ability to walk properly. If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes a hammertoe?

The muscles of each toe work in pairs. When the toe muscles get out of balance, a hammertoe can form. Muscle imbalance puts a lot of pressure on the toe’s tendons and joints. This pressure forces the toe into a hammerhead shape.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for a hammertoe?

There are many risk factors for hammertoe, such as:

  • Genes: You may have inherited a tendency to develop hammertoes because your feet are somewhat unstable — they may be flat or have a high arch.
  • Arthritis
  • Injury to the toe: Ill-fitting shoes are the main culprits. If shoes are too tight, too short, or too pointy, they push the toes out of balance. Pointy, high-heeled shoes put particularly severe pressure on the toes.
  • Aging

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is a hammertoe diagnosed?

A doctor can usually diagnose a hammertoe during a physical exam. Imaging tests, such as X-rays, may be necessary if you’ve had a bone, muscle, or ligament injury in your toe.

How is a hammertoe treated?

The severity of your condition determines the treatment options for a hammertoe.

Treatment for a mild hammertoe

You can correct a hammertoe caused by inappropriate footwear by wearing properly fitting shoes. If a high arch caused the condition, wearing toe pads or insoles in your shoes can help. These pads work by shifting your toe’s position, which relieves pain and corrects the appearance of your toe.

You can usually use over-the-counter (OTC) cushions, pads, or medications to treat bunions and corns. However, if they’re painful or if they cause your toes to become deformed, your doctor may opt to surgically remove them.

Don’t pop any blisters on your toes. Popping blisters can cause pain and infection. Use OTC creams and cushions to relieve pain and keep blisters from rubbing against the inside of your shoes.

Gently stretching your toes can also help relieve pain and reposition the affected toe.

Treatment for a severe hammertoe

If you’re unable to flex your toe, surgery is the only option to restore movement. Surgery can reposition the toe, remove deformed or injured bone, and realign your tendons. Surgery is normally done on an outpatient basis, so you can return home on the day of your surgery.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage a hammertoe?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with hammertoe:

  • Wearing proper footwear may ease your foot pain. Low-heeled shoes with a deep toe box and flexible material covering the toes can help. Make sure there’s a half-inch (1.27 centimeters) of space between your longest toe and the inside tip of your shoe. Allowing adequate space for your toes will help relieve pressure and pain.
  • Avoid over-the-counter medicated corn-removal products, many of which contain acid that can cause severe skin irritation. It’s also risky to try shaving or cutting an unsightly corn off your toe. Foot wounds can easily get infected, and foot infections are often difficult to treat, especially if you have diabetes or poor circulation.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: July 31, 2017 | Last Modified: July 31, 2017

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