What Are Hammer Toes?

 •  July 02, 2020

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What Are Hammer Toes?

Hammer toe or hammertoe is a deformity that causes the second joint in a toe to point downward instead of straight forward. The affected toes may feel painful and make it difficult to wear shoes normally as the change in the way the toes sit may cause them to rub against the inside of the shoe resulting in corns and calluses.



Hammertoe can be observed in the second joint of the toe. A deformity in the first joint of the toe is referred to as mallet toe. Hammertoe can be mild or very pronounced and is often accompanied by pain, red and painful swelling, joint immobility, and calluses. However, hammertoe is not the only cause of abnormal toe bends. If you think you might have hammertoe, it is important to be examined by a foot and ankle doctor as the diagnosis may be a foot ligament tear or other foot injury.


Hammertoe can have a number of causes. Wearing ill-fitting shoes, traumatic foot injury, arthritis, tightened foot ligaments and tendons, a turning in of the first toe, and an imbalance of toe muscles can all cause hammertoe. Wearing high heels regularly has been correlated with a number of foot issues including hammertoe.



Treatments are available and vary depending on the severity of your case. At first, your toes may remain flexible but over time they may become locked into the downward position. For mild cases caused by improper footwear, options may include changing to wider shoes and incorporating some physical therapy stretches. If the cause is a high arch, it may be recommended you add toe pads or insoles in your shoes to correct the misalignment in your foot. For more severe cases, surgery may be needed to regain mobility in your toes. While surgery is typically done as an outpatient procedure, the recovery can last anywhere from 3-6 weeks and can require a special shoe for walking to protect your toes as they heal. If you work on your feet all day or are required to wear steel toed boots at work, hammertoe surgery may impact your ability to work during your recovery time.


Wearing well fitting shoes, stretching your feet regularly, and seeing a foot and ankle doctor at the first sign of abnormal foot movement or shape are all important to help prevent severe hammertoe. Although it is not always entirely preventable, listening to your body can go a long way to avoid surgery.

Kahn, A. (2051, June 28). Hammer Toe: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis. Retrieved July 01, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/hammer-toe
Hammertoe and mallet toe. (2018, December 20). Retrieved July 01, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hammertoe-and-mallet-toe/symptoms-causes/syc-20350839
When a Hammertoe is Not Just a Hammertoe. (n.d.). Retrieved July 01, 2020, from https://www.foothealthfacts.org/article/when-a-hammertoe-is-not-just-a-hammertoe
Surgery for Hammer Toe: What to Expect at Home. (n.d.). Retrieved July 01, 2020, from https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/aftercareinformation/pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=zu2053

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