What is a Hammertoe?

Hammertoe is a foot deformity that can cause discomfort or difficulty stretching and moving the toes. This article will explain how hammertoe develops and what can be done to treat it.

What causes hammertoe?

Hammertoe occurs when one of the toes begins to bend up in the middle and then curl downward instead of remaining straight. It most commonly develops in the second or third toe, but it can develop in any toe. Occasionally, people are born with a hammertoe as an inherited condition, but it usually develops over time and tends to get progressively worse over time.

Hammertoe is the result of a muscle or tendon imbalance, which begins to pull the toe upward into an unusual shape. Common causes of this deformity include

  •       A toe fracture or injury that hasn’t healed properly
  •       Underlying arthritis
  •       Wearing ill-fitting or high-heeled shoes that compress the muscles in your toes
  •       Bunions putting pressure on your big toe, which can affect neighboring toes
  •       Especially tight or strained tendons or ligaments in the toe
  •       High arches


What are the symptoms of hammertoe?

The most notable symptom of a hammertoe is its curled downward appearance. Other common symptoms include

  •       Pain or discomfort while walking
  •       Reduced flexibility and range of motion in the foot and toes
  •       Corns or calluses on the toe that emerge from constant friction with shoes
  •       Swelling and inflammation of the affected toe


How is hammertoe diagnosed?

Since hammertoe tends to be relatively noticeable, a doctor can usually diagnose it from a physical exam. In some cases, an X-ray may be necessary to determine the extent of internal damage or deformity. An X-ray can also examine related injuries to the bone, muscle, or ligament that may be present if the deformity developed from a traumatic injury.


How is hammertoe treated?

Hammertoe does not go away on its own without intervention. Since it gets progressively worse, it’s important to get hammertoe treated early. Common conservative treatments include

  •       Wearing better fitting shoes that relieve pressure on the affected toe
  •       Using shoes inserts, toe pads, or orthotics to shift your toe back into its normal position
  •       Wearing over-the-counter cushions or pads that treat and protect bunions, corns, and calluses
  •       Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers to reduce pain and inflammation

In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to realign the displaced toe. Surgery may be necessary if the toe has become too rigid to move or the pain is too severe. A common surgical procedure involves removing part of the deformed bone to allow space for the toe to be repositioned and supported by the newly realigned nearby tendons.

Your treatment will ultimately depend on the severity of your condition and the recommendation of an orthopedic specialist.


Treating hammertoe at Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants

Having a hammertoe can interfere with your regular activities and lifestyle. If you’re suffering from symptoms of a hammertoe, it’s time to look into the best treatment options for your individual case.

At Midwest Orthopaedic Consults, we understand what it’s like to deal with the discomfort of a hammertoe and are ready to meet your needs with some of the best treatment options available and a supportive team of orthopedic specialists and surgeons.

Book an appointment with us today!


Only a doctor can tell you if you have this ailment. This is for informational purposes and should not be used in lieu of a doctor’s opinion.