A hammertoe is a deformity where the toe bends in a buckled or hammered position at the middle of the joint. The buckling of the toe can cause irritation to the top of the toe due to rubbing and friction from shoes. Initially, the toe is in a flexible state and can easily be manipulated back to its normal, straight position. If left untreated, the contracture permanently forms to a rigid and stiff state.


The primary cause of a hammertoe deformity is muscle imbalance. Each toe has a few muscles that work in pairs together to straighten and bend the toe. If the toe is bent and held in a position long enough, the muscles begin to stiffen.

This is commonly a cause of ill fitting shoes pressing on the toe to a flexed position. Other causes include foot compensation from other foot deformities such as bunions or arthritis, resulting in the toe curling as it tries to “grab” the ground.


  • Contracted digit with bend at the middle toe joint
  • Pain to top of the toe
  • Callus to the top of the toe
  • Stiffening of toe in a flexed position


Hammertoes are always an acquired deformity that goes from a flexible to rigid state. Treatment options vary depending on which state of flexibility is present. Common conservative options include:

  • New shoes with a taller toe box and softer cushion
  • Hammertoe padding or splints
  • Orthotics
  • Prescription anti-inflammatories
  • Prescription lotions to treat overlying callus

If conservative measures fail, surgery is indicated. The actual procedure performed will depend on how rigid the toe deformity is. The surgery can involve using an implant to keep the digit in a straight and upright position.Other procedures do not require implants or hardware and can be done with a much quicker recovery period.If you are exhibiting early indication of pain or discomfort, visit your podiatrist at Premier Foot & Ankle for care!


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