Hammertoes are a contracture of the toes as a result of a muscle imbalance between the tendons on the top and the tendons on the bottom of the toe. They can be flexible or rigid in nature. When they are rigid, it is not possible to straighten the toe out by manipulating it. Frequently, they develop corns on the top of the toe as a result of rubbing on the shoe. They may also cause a bothersome callus on the ball of the foot. This occurs as a result of the toe pressing downward on the bone behind the toe. This area then becomes prominent and the pressure of the bone against the ground causes a callus to form. (Corns and Calluses)

They tend to slowly get worse with time and frequently flexible deformities become rigid. Treatment can be preventative, symptomatic or curative.


What are Hammertoes?

  • A hammertoe is a contracture or bending of the toe at the first joint of the digit (the proximal interphalangeal joint) that causes the toe to appear like an upside-down V when viewed from the side
  • Any toe can be involved; most commonly the second through the fifth
  • More common in women

Symptoms of Hammertoes

  • Pain upon pressure at the top of the bent toe (usually due to footwear)
  • The formation of corns on the top of the joint
  • Redness and swelling at the joint contracture
  • Restricted or painful motion of the toe joint
  • Pain in the ball of the foot at the base of the affected toe

How Do You Get a Hammertoe?

  • An abnormal balance of the muscles in the toes
  • Heredity and trauma
  • Arthritis
  • Wearing shoes that are too tight
  • Treat early to avoid more complicated treatment plans

Treatment Options: Conservative

  • Visit your podiatrist for a diagnosis and treatment plan – x-rays may be taken
  • Padding, taping, and splinting
  • Medication such as anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections
  • Orthotics
  • Alternative shoe choices

Treatment Options: Surgical

For less severe hammertoes:

  • Tendon release (if flexible)
  • Bone remodeling

For more severe hammertoes:

  • Removal of a portion of bone
  • Fusion (joining of bones)

Hammertoe Surgery

  • Recuperation takes time
  • There will be swelling and some discomfort for several weeks following the procedure
  • Pain is usually managed with medication prescribed by the podiatric physician

Foot Pain Is Not Normal

  • Healthy, pain-free feet are a key to independence
  • Regular screening by your podiatrist is necessary
  • At the first sign of pain, or any noticeable changes in your feet, seek care from a podiatric physician

Bunion and hammertoes