image of a top view of male feet together with big bunions and hammer toes over white background.

A hammertoe deformity is a bending or contracture of the toe at the joint of the toe known as the proximal interphalangeal joint. The toe is contracted and bent at this knuckle of the toe. Any toe can be involved, but hammertoes usually affect the second through fifth toes.

Hammertoes can be flexible in nature where the toe can be straightened as the toe is movable at the joint.

Rigid hammertoes cannot be straightened at the joint level.

Hammertoes can arise from arthritis, congenital and hereditary factors, diabetes, injury/trauma, wearing improper footwear, age, and abnormal mechanics to the muscle and tendons to the toes. The abnormal mechanics causes imbalance and increased tension on the tendons and joints of the toes leading to the contracture of the toe. Pain can occur with wearing shoes walking or running.

Those experiencing hammertoes may also form corns and calluses which can be painful to the involved toe or toes, ball of the foot, redness and swelling at the joint contracture, and pain with motion of the joint. Treatments for hammertoes vary with the type and severity of the hammertoe deformity, and evaluation is performed to recommend a treatment plan.

Treatments include wearing shoes that are not tight or narrow with good room in the toe area, avoiding flexible and flat shoes, avoid high heel shoes, open-toe sandals, non-medicated corn pad, foam or gel toe sleeve, padding to the ball area of the foot, steroid injection, and custom orthotics. Custom orthotics are useful in controlling foot function and help reduce the worsening of the hammertoe deformity.

When buying footwear, it is recommended to buy shoes at the end of the day to ensure the best fit and comfort. If conservative measures fail to alleviate pain from hammertoe(s), surgery is an option to correct the hammertoe deformity.

For evaluation, confirming diagnosis, and treatment options, make an appointment with Dr. Novabilski