Effective Treatment For Hammertoes: Addressing The Root Of The Problem

Are you suffering from hammertoe? If so, you’re not alone – it’s a normal foot condition that affects millions of people. There are effective treatments available to help alleviate your pain and discomfort. Here, we’ll explore the causes of hammertoe and discuss how to get relief from the problem. We’ll also look at some simple lifestyle changes that can help reduce your risk of developing hammertoe in the first place. So if you’re searching for an easy way to treat this condition, read on!

What Is Hammertoe?

Hammertoe is a deformity that affects one or both joints in the second, third, or fourth toes. It causes the toe to bend downward, resembling a hammer-like shape. The condition usually begins gradually as the toe muscles weaken and the tendons and ligaments tighten, eventually making it difficult to straighten. Hammertoes can occur on any toe, but it is most common in the second or third toes.

Types Of Hammertoes

Hammertoes are a common foot deformity that occurs when one or more toes become bent or curled at the middle joint, resembling the shape of a hammer. There are different types of hammertoes, which can be classified based on the direction and degree of the deformity. The most common types of hammertoes include:

Flexible Hammertoes

Flexible hammertoes are the mildest form of Hammertoe, and the affected toes can still be straightened manually. In this type, the joint is still moveable, but the deformity is beginning to cause an abnormal shape or curvature in one or more toes. This is due to genetics, muscle imbalances, and poor-fitting shoes.

Rigid Hammertoes

Rigid hammertoes are more severe and cannot be straightened manually. In this type of Hammertoe, the joint is no longer moveable, and the deformity is fixed in place. It can cause significant pain and discomfort, as well as impaired walking and balance.

Mild Hammertoes

Mild hammertoes are less severe than rigid hammertoes but still have limited movement in the affected joints. This type of Hammertoe is usually caused by poor-fitting shoes or misalignment of the toes due to genetics, muscle imbalances, or injury.

Causes Of Hammertoes

Hammertoes are joint foot deformities that can affect anyone, although they are more commonly seen in women than men. The condition can be caused by some factors, including:


Some people are genetically predisposed to developing hammertoes due to an inherited foot structurethat causes the toes to be pulled out of alignment by overused muscles.. This can cause the toes to grip to help with stabilizing the foot which results in a deformed or bent toe.This causes a claw-like appearance.


Arthritis can also cause a hammertoe, as the joint inflammation and swelling associated with the condition can lead to tendon shortening and muscle weakening. This can result in an abnormal foot position that leads to a claw-like toe shape and pain.


Trauma to the toe, such as stubbing it on a hard surface or suffering a fracture, can cause the joint to become abnormally bent or misaligned. This ultimately leads to the development of Hammertoe. When a toe is bent and forced into an unnatural position, it can stretch and weaken the tendons and ligaments that keep it in place, making it difficult to straighten the toe.

Muscle Imbalances

Imbalances in the muscles and tendons that control the movement of the toes can cause the joint to become deformed, leading to the development of a hammertoe. When these muscles and tendons are unable to work properly, it can cause a shift in the toe’s position as it bends downward, becoming more pronounced over time.

Neurological Conditions

Neurological conditions, such as cerebral palsy and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, are known to cause muscle weakness and imbalances that can lead to the growth of hammertoes. Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the brain’s motor control centers, causing a person’s muscles to tighten and contract. Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is a genetic disorder that affects the nerves in the arms and legs, causing muscle weakness.


As we age, our muscles and tendons gradually become weaker and less flexible, which can increase the risk of developing hammertoes. This is because when tissues become less elastic with age, they are more likely to be stretched into an abnormal or unnatural position. For instance, if a person tends to have flat feet or high arches, they may be more likely to develop Hammertoe as they age.

Symptoms Of Hammertoe

Hammertoe is a common foot deformity that can cause various symptoms, depending on the severity of the condition. Some of the most common symptoms of hammertoe include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the affected toe, especially when wearing shoes or walking for extended periods.
  • Redness or swelling around the affected toe.
  • Calluses or corns on the affected toe or surrounding area.
  • Stiffness or inflexibility in the affected joint makes it difficult to move the toe.
  • In severe cases, the big toe may appear visibly deformed, with a bent or curled shape that resembles a hammer or claw.
  • Difficulty fitting into high heeled shoes, particularly those with a narrow or deep toe box.
  • Increased risk of developing blisters, sores, or ulcers on the affected toe due to friction or pressure from shoes.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

Non-surgical hammer toe treatment options are typically the first line of defense and can effectively relieve foot pain and prevent further deformity. Some common non-surgical treatment options for Hammertoe include:

Footwear Changes

Wearing comfortable, properly fitting shoes with a wide toe box can help relieve pressure on the toes and reduce pain associated with hammertoe. This is because when the toes have more space to move freely within the shoe, they will not be compressed into an unnatural shape. Also, wear shoes with softer soles that cushion the toes and feet.

Padding and Splints

Using padding or splinting devices to keep the toes straighter, the more natural position can help relieve pain caused by hammertoe. These devices also provide cushioning and support for the affected toe, minimizing friction between it and the shoe.


Gently stretching the calf muscles regularly reduces strain on the toes when walking or running.

Physical Therapy

Visiting a physical therapist for specialized treatment can be beneficial in relieving the pain that is associated with hammertoe. Physical therapists can provide targeted exercises tailored to the individual’s needs and hands-on therapies such as massage, ultrasound, and stretching, especialy if there is swelling around the affected hammertoe joints

Orthotic Devices

Orthotics are special inserts for shoes that help position and support the foot in its natural alignment. They can be custom-made and help reduce the need for the toes to overwork slowing down the development of hammertoes Additionally, orthotics can help improve overall foot biomechanics and posture.


Over-the-counter pain relievers and medication can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with hammertoe. These can block the production of hormones that cause inflammation and swelling in the body, thereby reducing discomfort. Surgical Treatment Options

Surgical treatment may be necessary for severe cases of hammertoe, particularly when non-surgical treatment options have failed to provide relief. Some common surgical treatment options for hammertoe include:


Arthroplasty is a surgical procedure used to treat hammertoe that involves removing a small portion of bone from the affected toe to straighten the toe and reduce pressure on it. During this procedure, your foot and ankle surgeons will make an incision in the top of your toe and remove a very small piece of bone. This will help to reduce pressure on the joint, allowing for improved movement and alignment of the toe.


Arthrodesis is a surgical procedure used to treat Hammertoe that involves fusing the affected joint to straighten it. During this procedure, your foot doctor will make an incision in the top of your toe and then use a small drill to create a hole in the affected joint. They will then insert a tiny screw into the hole, allowing it to fuse with the surrounding bones. This will help immobilize the joint, which can provide relief from pain and improve overall foot function.

Tendon Transfer

A tendon transfer is a surgical procedure typically used to treat hammertoe that involves moving a tendon from the top of the toe to the bottom to straighten the toe. The toe will be held in its correct position with a strong suture, allowing it to maintain its new, straighter shape.

During the procedure, an incision will be made in the top of your toe, and a tendon from another part of your foot or leg will be used to help straighten out the affected joint. The tendon will then be sutured into place to keep it in the correct position. This procedure is typically used when other non-surgical and surgical treatments have failed.

Schedule Your Foot Care Treatment Appointment At Northern Ankle Today!

At Northern Ankle Foot Care, we specialize in treating hammer toes with various conservative treatment options and the latest surgical techniques. Our experienced team of podiatrists can provide tailored treatment plans to help relieve pain, reduce deformity, and improve the overall function of your feet. We offer treatment services, including custom orthotics, injections, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, and more to help get your feet back to their best. Contact us today to learn more or to schedule an appointment!