Hammer Toe

A bent toe and protruding joint

Complaining of a Crooked or Bent Toe?

A hammer toe is an abnormal bending of one or both joints of the second, third, fourth, or fifth toe. The bending is the result of a weakened muscle in the toe. In the early stage the toe can still be moved at the joint and is called a flexible hammertoe. It becomes a rigid hammertoe if the tendons press the joint of alignment and the toe can no longer be moved.

Other similarities to this condition include a mallet toe and a claw toe. In each of these conditions, a different joint is contracted. Treatment is similar for all three, and a doctor will be able to give recommendations for prevention and care.

What is it?

A hammer toe is one of the most common deformities of the foot. The visual effect gives off the appearance of a toe hammering the ground – the PIP joint protrudes upward and the tip of the toe is flat on the ground. The deformity usually occurs in the second toe and is often related to the length of that toe. The condition may also cause metatarsalgia at the base of the second toe. The biggest complaint with a hammer toe is usually friction in the shoe due to the toe rubbing on the upper area of the toe box. This irritation can cause callus formation, especially on the tip of the joint protruding upward. The condition can also cause difficulty walking or painful gait.

What Causes it?

Oftentimes a hammer toe is genetic and the chances of developing the condition increases as you age. It can also be caused by tight fitting shoes. Those who take special care to wear shoes that are not too short or too tight in the toe box decrease their chances of developing a hammer toe.

There are also certain medical conditions that can cause a hammer toe to develop. These conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, affect the joints and cause the contracture.

What Can I do?

The best prevention of a hammer toe is to wear shoes that fit properly and do not squish your toes together. If a hammer toe has already developed, beginning to wear shoes that fit properly can help reduce the discomfort. Your doctor may recommend modifications to shoes, such as certain insoles or toe pads to take the pressure of the toe and help it to heal. Gentle stretching can help relieve pain and reposition a flexible hammertoe. If a rigid hammertoe develops then surgery may be needed.

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