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Hammer Toe: What to Do If You Have It

Dr. Eman Elmi
June 25, 2023
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Hammer toe, also spelled hammertoe, can affect many different people. It most commonly happens in the second or third toe, in the toe joint furthest from the nail. Hammer toe causes the joint to remain fixed in a bent or curved position. Today’s topic is a closer look at the symptoms of hammer toe and how to best treat them.

What Causes Hammer Toes?

Hammer toes can be caused by any number of factors. It’s most commonly caused by wearing shoes that are too tight or with a pointed toe, forcing the toes together. It can also be exacerbated by high foot arch, bunion pressure, or traumatic toe injuries. These conditions cause the tendons on the top and bottom of the toe to be out of alignment. In almost all cases, it’s entirely treatable.

Other indicators of risk of hammer toe include family history, age, toe length, and other conditions like diabetes or arthritis. People with a second toe longer than their big toe have an increased risk of developing hammer toe. Because women more frequently wear shoes that can cause hammer toe (like high heels), they can be at greater risk.

Hammer Toe Symptoms

Hammer toe starts when the toe develops an abnormal bend that may be difficult or painful to move. This pain may affect your ability to wear shoes.

In addition, the toe rubbing against the shoe more frequently can lead to corns or bunions developing. Redness or swelling can also be a consequence of this extra friction.

A similar condition known as mallet toe affects the joint closer to the nail. Symptoms and treatment are overall similar to hammer toe with some minor differences. For example, mallet toe is more frequently caused or worsened by traumatic toe injury than hammer toe.

If you’re having lasting foot pain impacting your walking ability, it’s time to schedule a doctor’s appointment.

Hammer Toe Surgery

In certain severe cases, hammer toe surgery may be required to fix the situation. This surgery could involve removing damaged or deformed bone, repositioning the toe, and realigning joints or tendons. As with almost any surgical procedure, a certain amount of risk and recovery time is required. However, hammer toe surgery is generally a lower-risk procedure when needed.

How to Fix Hammer Toe

Most cases of hammer toe do not require surgical intervention, however. Generally speaking, hammer toe can be corrected by correcting whatever caused it to begin with. For example, getting better shoes or an orthotic arch should resolve hammer toe if your shoes are ill-fitting. Similarly, treating bunions that are impacting the toe tendon’s capacity to flex should help them stretch and resolve the condition.

Your provider may recommend particular toe stretches or wearing a splint to help control toe flexion.

The best way to fix hammer toe, and solve other foot, heel, and ankle problems, is by buying well-fitting shoes. When buying shoes to fix hammer toe, look for ones with adequate toe room and avoid pointed toes. High heels can contribute to hammer toe and other toe and back problems, so aim for modest heels. Shoes that can adjust, such as ones with laces or straps, can be more manageable.

Buy comfortable shoes, and remember, feet swell as the day progresses. Measure both feet and buy with the larger foot in mind. Following these steps, you should have a comfortable and stylish pair (and no hammer toe).

Hammer Toe Treatment Options from Diablo Foot and Ankle

Hammer toe can be painful and make walking that much more difficult. There are solutions available. Diablo Foot and Ankle knows how to fix hammer toe. Our friendly and professional podiatric experts can answer any questions about hammer toe or other conditions impacting your feet. Schedule an appointment today and walk out feeling relieved.

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