Condition, Hammertoe

What are Hammertoes? Types, Causes, Relief & Treatment


Having hammertoes can lead to a lot of discomforts. It can be hard to walk or stand still, difficult to wear shoes because it presses against the top of your toes, and sometimes even hurt in the morning when you wake up. The condition is typically caused by wearing shoes that are too small or wearing high heels for prolonged periods of time.

But not to worry. We can help you find relief from hammertoes by providing you with everything you need to know about the condition, including types, relief/treatment options, and related symptoms.

What are hammertoes?

A hammertoe is a toe that bends abnormally at the middle joint. This can be due to a birth defect, wearing ill-fitting, tight, or high-heeled shoes, or injury. A hammertoe may be painful and cause problems with balance and walking.

What’s the difference between mallet toes, hammertoes, and claw-toes?

Mallet’s toes are toes that are contracted so the tip of the toe touches the top of the foot, while hammertoes and claw toes are toes that are contracted so the tip of the toe bends down towards the bottom of the foot.

  • Mallet toes is a condition where the second toe is longer than the first one and it overlaps the third toe.
  • Hammertoe is a condition in which the toes are bending inwards and touching each other.
  • Claw toes is a condition where all toes are bent downwards and touching each other.

What are the causes of hammertoes?

Hammertoes are caused by a number of different factors, including:

  • Incorrectly sized shoes/Tight shoes: Too narrow, ill fitting shoes, or just too tight can cause hammertoes because the toes are squeezed together and bend down towards the ground. This causes them to curl up and form a claw-like shape.
  • Improper footwear: Improper footwear can cause hammertoes due to the constant pressure on the ball of your foot.
  • Genetics: Typically, hammertoes are caused by genetics. Risk factor for children are higher with close blood relations to have hammertoes if one or more of their parents have them. The cause for this is unclear, but there may be a genetic component involved. The genetic component means that if you have family members with hammertoes, you are more likely to have them too.
  • Arthritis: The most common type of arthritis that causes hammertoes is psoriatic arthritis. This type of arthritis affects joints throughout the body and usually accompanies psoriasis or another inflammatory skin condition.
  • Injury: This could happen if the toe becomes jammed against a hard object or through repetitive stress on the toe.
  • Weak arches: Weak arches cause hammertoes by not being able to support the weight of the body. This condition makes your feet vulnerable to several other conditions. It can be really hard to keep your feet healthy with a lot of pressure on them.

What are the symptoms of hammertoes?

The symptoms of hammertoes include:

  • swollen toes
  • toe pain
  • cracking
  • cutting off circulation to the toes
  • Pain in the ball of your foot
  • Corns and calluses at the top of your joint
  • Redness, inflammation, or a burning sensation
  • Restricted or painful motion of your toe joint

What are the ways of diagnosing hammertoes?

  • X-ray – It will show the calcification of the tendon.
  • MRI – It will show the tendon’s structure and the bone structure that the tendon wraps around.
  • Nerve Conduction Study (NCS) – It will show the nerves in the area and

How are hammertoes treated? How are they corrected?

Treatments include the following:

  • Surgery: If your toe joint hurts a lot and it keeps you from doing things you want to do, then they might recommend surgery. It can also help if you’ve tried other treatments without success. During your surgery, your surgeon might fix the position of your dislocated toe by removing the bump on its bone and realigning it. They might also insert a steel pin to maintain the bone’s alignment
    If you experience any of the following after surgery, please contact your physician. These include Infections, bleeding, nerve injuries and stiffness.
  • Home Treatment/Non-Surgical Treatment:
    • Custom shoe inserts are an effective way of controlling the function of your feet.
    • You can also take NSAIDs or cortisone shots to make your pain go away.
    • Taping the toes can alter the muscle imbalance
    • Padding around the hammertoe can minimize the pressure that is put on it.

What are the ways of preventing hammertoes?

The best way to avoid hammertoe is to prevent the condition from occurring. This can be done by doing the following:

  • The best way to prevent hammer toe is to wear shoes that fit your feet correctly. If you have a tight shoe, I recommend that you find a shoe store and get your feet measured.
  • Wearing high-heeled shoes often puts pressure on your toes and can result in the formation of corns and a higher-arched foot. The rule of thumb is that the heel should be no higher than 2 inches.

When should I see my healthcare provider?

If you notice any signs of hammertoes, such as erythema and pain in the affected digit joint or extended joint, visit your health care provider.


Are hammertoes the same things as bunions?

No. Hammertoes are not the same things as bunions. A bunion is a bony enlargement at the joint of the first metatarsal bone and the proximal phalanx of the big toe.

Can hammertoes cause numbness?

Hammertoes can cause numbness if the toes are tightly curled up. If the toes are not curled up, hammertoes are most likely not the cause of numbness.

What worsens the condition of having hammertoes?

Poor-fitting footwear can definitely worsen hammertoes or if left untreated.

Will hammertoes affect my walking? Running?

Hammertoes won’t affect your walking or running if managed right away.

Will hammertoes affect my walking? Running?

Hammertoes won’t affect your walking or running if managed right away.

Do I have to have surgery to fix my hammertoes?

If you have hammertoes that are causing you pain or discomfort, surgical treatment may be necessary. This would entail a hammertoe release, which is a simple outpatient procedure.

How long will I have hammertoes? Are they permanent?

Hammertoe deformity is not permanent. With proper care, most hammertoes can be corrected in a matter of months.


Hammertoe is a painful inflammation that can cause toe shortening or stiffness in your toes. We have learned that it has many causes, including injuries, arthritis, heredity, and obesity. We now also know that treatment varies depending on the type of hammertoe you have. Ultimately, prevention is still better than cure, so always take care of your feet. If things get worse, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor. 

Photo by Klara Kulikova on Unsplash