Hammer Toe

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What are Hammer Toes?

A hammer toe is a bend of the toe at the first joint of the toe. The bending of the toe causes it to appear like an upside-down V. Any of the 5 toes of the foot can be involved, but the condition usually affects the second throught the fifth toe. Hammer toes are less common in males and females are more effected

There are two different types of hammer toes:

Flexible: this type is less serious because they can be treated while the condition is still developing. They are called flexible hammer toes because they are still movement at the joint.

Rigid: This type is more developed and serious. Rigid hammer toes are more common to  patients with severe arthritis, or in patients who have waited too long to seek help. The tendons in a rigid hammer toe have become misaligned and inflexible, making surgery the only course of treatment.

A hammer toe develops usually due to an abnormal balance of the muscles in the toes. This balance issue causes increased pressures on the tendons and joints leading to its misalignment. Heredity can also be a factor leading  to the formation of a hammer toe. Arthritis is another influence, because the balance around the toe is disrupted. Improperly fitting shoes can cause the toes to squeeze can also this type of hammer toe formation.


The symptoms of a hammer toe include the following:

  • Footware that causes pain at the top of the bent toe
  • Corns on the top of the joint
  • Swelling at the joint contracture
  • Painful motion of the toe joint
  • Pain in the ball of the foot underneath the toe

Home Treatment

How can you seek relief?

  • Apply a commercial, pad around the bony prominence to decrease pressure on the toe.
  • Pick a shoe with a deep toe box.
  • Apply ice packs several times a day to reduce swelling of the affected toe
  • Avoid high heel shoes.
  • A loose-fitting pair of shoes can also helpful while reducing pressure on the affected toe
  • Wearing shoes that are too tight or narrow is not advised. Children should have their shoe fit checked regularly to avoid growning out of a shoes size.


When to Visit a Podiatrist

See a podiatrist. Try to stay on top of a developing hammer toe with early treatment.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your podiatric physician will examine and X-ray the affected area and recommend a treatment plan specific to your condition.

Padding and Taping:  Padding and taping are the first steps in a comprehensive treatment plan. Padding the hammer toe prominence minimizes pain and allows the patient to continue a normal, active life. Taping may change the imbalance around the toes and eliminate the stress and pain.

Medication:  Cortisone injections can be prescribed to ease pain and inflammation caused by the deformity.

Orthotic Devices: Custom shoe inserts assist your podiatrist and be useful in controlling foot function. The orthotic device may reduce symptoms and prevent the condition from worsening.

Surgical Options: A variety of  surgical procedures are available to your podiatrist. Surgery will remove the bony prominence and restore normal alignment of the toe joint. For more severe hammer toes, which are not fully reducible, may require more complex surgical procedures.

Recuperation can take several weeks. Pain, can be managed with medications prescribed by your podiatrist.


There are several things you can do to help prevent hammer toes from forming in the first place:

  • Wear shoes with proper support.
  • Utilize custom orthotics prescribed by your podiatrist. Orthotics may prevent the development of hammer toes.
  • Avoid shoes that compress the toes.


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Dr. Gregory M. Jansyn