Hammer Toe



Hammer toe is caused by an imbalance in the ligaments and muscle stabilizers of the toe.

Risk Factors

Hammer toe is more common in older adults. Things that may raise the risk are:

  • Wearing tight shoes
  • Prior foot trauma
  • Neuromuscular problems, such as:
    • Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
    • Diabetes
    • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Arthritis



Problems may be:

  • A toe that is bent at the middle joint
  • Pain in the toe that is worse when moving it
  • Pain where the toe meets the foot
  • Blisters, corns, or calluses on top of the middle joint of the toe


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and past health. An exam of the toe will be done. This is enough to make the diagnosis.

Pictures may be taken if the diagnosis is not clear. This can be done with an x-ray.



The goal of treatment is to ease pressure on the toe. Choices are:

  • Wearing shoes with roomy toe boxes
  • Splinting the toe
  • Padding the toe
  • Using shoe inserts

Some people with severe hammer toe may need surgery. Choices are:

  • Cutting or transferring tendons
  • Fusing the middle joint of the toe together
  • Removing part of the toe or joint


Hammer toe may be prevented by:

  • Not wearing shoes that are narrow or do not fit well
  • Not wearing heels that are higher than two inches
  • Wearing shoes with a wide toe box

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.