Hammer Toe

Overview

Definition

A hammer toe is a toe that stays bent at the middle joint. A flexible hammer toe can be straightened by hand. A rigid hammer toe cannot.

Hammertoe
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Causes

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

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in older adults. Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

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

SymptomsandDiagnosis

Symptoms

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

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. An exam of the toe will be done. This is enough to make the diagnosis.

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

Treatments

Treatment

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

Prevention

Hammer toe may be prevented by:

  • Not wearing shoes that are narrow or do not fit well
  • Not wearing heels that are higher than 2 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.

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RESOURCES

American Podiatric Medical Association http://www.apma.org 

OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://orthoinfo.aaos.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://coa-aco.org 

Health Canada https://www.canada.ca 

References

DiPreta JA. Metatarsalgia, lesser toe deformities, and associated disorders of the forefoot. Med Clin North Am. 2014 Mar;98(2):233-251.

Hammer toe. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hammer-toe  . Updated March 30, 2015. Accessed May 7, 2020.

Hammer toe. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00160. Updated September 2012. Accessed May 7, 2020.

Hammertoe. Foot Health Facts—American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.foothealthfacts.org/footankleinfo/hammertoes.htm. Accessed May 7, 2020.