A hammer toe is a toe that tends to remain bent at the middle joint in a claw-like position. There are 2 types of hammer toe:
- Flexible hammer toe—can be straightened by hand
- Rigid hammer toe—cannot be pulled straight and can be extremely painful. The position of the toe can also lead to corns or calluses. These may also be painful.
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Factors that increase your chance of getting hammer toe include:
- Family history of hammer toe
- Foot and ankle abnormalities
Frequent use of inappropriate footwear:
- Shoes that don't fit properly, for either an adult or child
- High heels
- Narrow-toed shoes
- The foot having a high arch
- Muscle weakness in the foot
- Nerve damage in the foot
- Injury to a toe
If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to hammer toe. Talk to your doctor about symptoms such as:
- A toe that curls down
- Corns on the top of a toe
- Calluses on the sole of the foot or bottom of the toe
- Pain in the middle joint of a toe
- Discomfort on the top of a toe
- Difficulty finding any shoes that fit comfortably
- Cramping in a toe, and sometimes also the foot and leg
- Difficult or painful motion of a toe joint
- Pain in the ball of the foot or at the base of a toe
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
The toe will need time to heal. This may include:
- Splinting the affected toe
- Switching to properly sized footwear with roomy toe boxes
- Splints, straps, cushions, or corn pads to relieve symptoms
Severe cases require an operation to straighten the joint:
- Tendons may be cut or transferred
- The middle joint of the toe may be fused together
- Part of the toe or joint may be removed
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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American Podiatric Medical Association http://www.apma.org
OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://orthoinfo.aaos.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://coa-aco.org
Health Canada https://www.canada.ca
Hammer toe. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00160. Updated September 2012. Accessed February 8, 2018.
Hammertoe. Foot Health Facts—American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.foothealthfacts.org/footankleinfo/hammertoes.htm. Accessed February 8, 2018.
Hammer toe. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114646/Hammer-toe . Updated March 30, 2015. Accessed February 8, 2018.