Information From The American Podiatric Medical
A hammertoe is a contracture—or bending—of the toe at the
first joint of the digit, called the proximal interphalangeal joint.
This bending causes the toe to appear like an upside-down V when looked
at from the side. Any toe can be involved, but the condition usually
affects the second through fifth toes, known as the lesser digits. Hammertoes
are more common to females than males.
There are two different types:
These are less serious because they can be diagnosed and treated while
still in the developmental stage. They are called flexible hammertoes
because they are still moveable at the joint.
This variety is more developed and more serious
than the flexible condition. Rigid hammertoes can be seen in patients
with severe arthritis, for example, or in patients who wait too long
to seek professional treatment. The tendons in a rigid hammertoe have
become tight, and the joint misaligned and immobile, making surgery
the usual course of treatment.
• Pain upon pressure at the top of the bent toe from 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 is formed due an abnormal
balance of the muscles in the toes. This abnormal balance causes increased
pressures on the tendons and joints of the toe, leading to its contracture.
Heredity and trauma can also lead to the formation of a hammertoe. Arthritis
is another factor, because the balance around the toe in people with
arthritis is so disrupted that a hammertoe may develop. Wearing shoes
that are too tight and cause the toes to squeeze can also be a cause
for a hammertoe to form.
What Can You
Do for Relief?
• Apply a commercial, nonmedicated
hammertoe pad around the bony prominence of the hammertoe. This will
decrease pressure on the area.
• Wear a shoe with a deep toe box.
• Avoid heels more than two inches tall.
• A loose-fitting pair of shoes can also help protect the foot
while reducing pressure on the affected toe, making walking a little
easier until a visit to your podiatrist can be arranged. It is important
to remember that, while this treatment will make the hammertoe feel
better, it does not cure the condition. A trip to the podiatric physician’s
office will be necessary to repair the toe to allow for normal foot
• Avoid wearing shoes that are too tight or narrow. Children should
have their shoes properly fitted on a regular basis, as their feet can
often outgrow their shoes rapidly.
• See your podiatric physician if pain persists.
What Will Your Podiatrist Do to
Treat a Hammertoe?
The treatment options vary with the type and severity of each hammer-
toe, although identifying the deformity early in its development is
important to avoid surgery. Podiatric medical attention should be sought
at the first indication of pain and discomfort because, if left untreated,
hammertoes tend to become rigid, making a nonsurgical treatment less
of an option.
Your podiatric physician will examine and
X-ray the affected area and recommend a treatment plan specific to your
Padding and Taping:
Often this is the first step in a treatment
plan. Padding the hammertoe prominence minimizes pain and allows the
patient to continue a normal, active life. Taping may change the imbalance
around the toes and thus relieve the stress and pain.
Several surgical procedures are available to the podiatric physician.
For less severe deformities, the surgery will remove the bony prominence
and restore normal alignment of the toe joint, thus relieving pain.