Hammertoe most commonly affects the second toe on the foot.  It causes the middle joint to bend. Hammertoe is most frequently caused by structural problems in the toe or from wearing ill-fitting shoes.  It is important to diagnose and treat hammertoe early because the condition tends to become worse over time if allowed to go unchecked. If left untreated, hammertoe can require surgery.


Your toes are part of your forefoot.  They help you do everything from balancing to walking and moving. Your big toe contains two bones called phalanges. Your second through fifth toes each contain three bones.  Hammertoe results when the middle joint is contracted.

Hammertoe Causes

Hammertoe commonly develops because of changes that take place over time in the muscles and tendons that work to bend the toes. People with certain medical conditions like diabetes are most at risk for developing hammertoe.  It can also be an inherited condition for some people. Other causes include trauma to the toe area and wearing shoes that are too small, narrow or have high heels.  

Hammertoe Symptoms

The symptoms of hammertoe are progressive, meaning that they worsen over time. Hammertoe causes the middle joint on the second, third, fourth, or fifth toes to bend.  The affected toe may be painful or irritated. Areas of thickened skin (corns) may develop between, on top of, or at the end of your toes. Thickened skin (calluses) may also appear on the bottom of your toe or the ball of your foot due to the shift in your gait caused by the hammertoe.  It may be difficult to find comfortable shoes.

Hammertoe Diagnosis

Your podiatrist can diagnose hammertoe by reviewing your medical history and examining your foot.  X-rays are typically utilized to determine the extent of the condition.

Hammertoe Treatment

There are many non-surgical treatments to help relieve symptoms of hammertoe.  The first step for many people is buying the right size and type of shoe. Low-heeled shoes with a boxy or roomy toe area are most helpful if you suffer from bunions.  Cushioned insoles, customized orthopedic inserts, and custom pads in your shoes can provide relief as well. Splints or straps may be used to help correct your toe’s position.

Your podiatrist may show you toe stretches and exercises to perform, and can safely remove any corns and calluses that have developed.  It is not advisable to remove these yourself at home.

Hammertoe Surgery 

Surgery is used when other types of treatment fail to relieve symptoms or for the most advanced cases of hammertoe.  There are several types of surgery utilized to treat hammertoe. A small piece of bone may be removed from the joint.  The toe joint may be fused to straighten it (arthrodesis). Surgical hardware may be used to hold the bones in place while they heal.  Other types of surgery involve removing the skin or correcting muscles and tendons to balance the joint. 

Hammertoe Recovery

Recovery from non-surgical and surgical treatment for hammertoe is individualized.  Recovery can depend on multiple factors, including the cause and extent of your condition and the type of treatment you received.  Your podiatrist will let you know what to expect.

Hammertoe Prevention

It is important to visit a podiatrist as soon as you develop hammertoe.  Early treatment can help prevent any future deformities. Hammertoe that is not treated can become worse over time, and eventually require surgery.

At SPORT, we will identify the source of your pain and then utilize state-of-the-art therapeutic techniques that focus on restoring your range of motion.

Depending on the specific condition and its severity, these treatment options may include physical therapy, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, slings and supports, cortisone shots, or surgery.

If you have an acute or chronic foot or ankle injury that needs medical attention, call SPORT at (469) 200-2832 to arrange a consultation or you can request one online. Hurt today? We can arrange a same-day urgent care visit to ensure you get fast, effective relief.

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