Hammer toe (hammertoe) is a deformity of the second, third, or fourth toes. In this condition, the toe is bent at the middle joint, into an upward position, causing it to resemble a hammer (sometimes decribed as “curled toes”). Left untreated, hammer toes can become inflexible and require surgery.

Toes which take on a curled appearance like this are hammer toes.

Mallet toe is a similar condition, but affects the upper joint of a toe.

Hammer toes are usually not a serious condition, but can become painful as the bent joint rubs against the inside of the shoe, causing irritation, corns, or calluses on the top of the middle joint or the tip of the toe. Hammer toes may also cause occasional shooting pains throughout the toes or elsewhere in the foot.

What causes Hammer toes?

Hammer toes are most frequently caused by a muscle – tendon imbalance in the foot, and are seen both in adults and children. Foot muscles work in pairs to straighten and bend the toes. If your foot has a biomechanical defect, the muscles tighten and the tendons shorten. Eventually, the toe muscles can’t straighten the toe, even when barefoot. Contributing factors are poor choices in footwear, arthritis, or trauma.

How your footwear contributes to hammer toes: Shoes that narrow toward the toe force the smaller toes into a bent upward position. This makes the toes rub against the inside of the shoe, and creates corns and calluses aggravating the toes further. If the shoes have a high heel, the feet are forced forward and down, squeezing the toes against the front of the shoe, which increases the pressure on the toes and makes them bend further. Eventually, the toe muscles become unable to straighten the toe.

Treatment for Hammer toes

  • Wear shoes with roomy toe boxes which don’t force your toes together (if you can’t wiggle ’em, don’t wear ’em!)
  • Exercises to stretch and strengthen muscles in the toes
  • Over the countertoe straps, clings, regulators, and pads
  • Custom Molded
  • In severe cases, surgery to release the muscles in the affected toes which consist of fusion, implants, and