Hammertoe: Symptoms, Causes, Relief

Hammertoe occurs in the second, third, and fourth toes and can be very painful. As indicated by its name, it resembles a hammer or claw. The toe is bent downward resulting in a deformed or crooked appearance. The most common complaint is rubbing and irritation on the top of the bent toe.

Types of Hammertoe

There are two types of hammertoe that indicate the severity of the deformity: flexible and rigid. Each type is classified based on the mobility of the joints.

Flexible: is the first stage of hammertoe. The toe can still be straightened manually. There may be several treatment options.

Rigid: develops following the flexible hammertoe stage and indicates a more severe case of hammertoe. The toe can no longer be straightened manually, and range of motion is very restricted. It usually means that surgery is needed.

Causes of Hammertoe

Hammertoe results from a muscle imbalance that tightens and shortens the ligaments and tendons in the toe. This draws the toe downward with the middle joint bent and creates the deformity. This typically occurs from wearing shoes that fit too tightly and have a tight toe box, which does not allow for sufficient space for the toes.


To potentially prevent getting hammertoe, make sure you are wearing the proper footwear. Proper footwear includes shoes that have the appropriate toe box size for your specific foot characteristics. This will provide the space required to keep your toes uncrowded. It is also advised to avoid wearing high heels if possible. This is a significant preventative step.

Sometimes they fit patients with braces and splints to force the toe into a normal position, which works to stretch the shortened muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Exercises, such as picking up marbles and scrunching a towel with your toes are often prescribed. In more severe cases, outpatient surgery is necessary. These surgeries can involve cutting or moving ligaments and tendons and fusing the bones on either side of the effected joint.

Our board-certified experts in podiatry consult with each patient before beginning an individualized treatment program utilizing our state-of-the-art diagnostic and therapeutic equipment. Call us today or visit us online to schedule an appointment.