What is a hammertoe?

Hammertoe is a deformity that affect the little toes (not the big toe). Hammertoe causes these little toes to bend upward, contracting towards the foot. This can cause excessive rubbing on the toes, especially when wearing shoes.


Normally hammertoes start as mild deformities that are flexible and easily corrected with non-invasive procedures. Unfortunately, if left untreated at these early stages hammertoes can become rigid and cannot be corrected without surgical intervention. This is why early intervention can be crucial to hammertoes.

Hammertoes are most often caused by a tendon or muscle imbalance. This can occur over time and results from a mechanical or neurological changes in the foot. In some cases hammertoe may be inherited, or even caused by trauma to the toe. 


Hammertoes can be aggravated by poorly fitting shoes. If a toe that is too long is forced into a shoe that does not allow ample room it can contribute to a hammertoe.   


Symptoms that can occur in patient suffering from hammertoe include: 

  • Pain - pain or irritation of the hammertoe, especially when wearing shoes.

  • Corns and calluses - common on the toe, between two toes, and on the ball of the foot. Caused by constant friction against the shoe, they may be hard or soft.

  • Inflammation - swelling and redness as well a burning sensation are common.

  • Contracture - the characteristic bending up of the toe.


Many different treatments exist for hammertoe. You podiatrist will suggest one of the following treatments, depending on the severity and progression of the hammertoe:​

  • Shoes - a change to shoe gear, especially to a shoe which leaves more room for the offending toes. High heels and shoes with pointed toes should be avoided. 

  • Padding - adding padding to relieve pressure on corn and calluses. Medicated over-the-counter pads should be avoided, they generally contain acids to soften the corn/callus. This can lead to an increased likelihood of infection and ulcerations.  

  • Orthotic Inserts - a custom orthotic device is frequently prescribed to support the tendons and muscles as well as relieve pressures on the toes. 

  • Injection therapy - corticosteroid injections are sometimes used to ease pain and inflammation. 

  • Oral Medications - Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, may be used to reduce inflammation and pain.

  • Surgical Correction - depending on the state of the hammertoe your podiatrist may recommend a surgical intervention to correct the problem. 

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