Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.




Hammertoe is a condition in which the toe is bent in a claw-like position. It can be present in more than one toe but is most common in the second toe.


Hammertoe is described as a deformity in which the toes bend downward with the toe joint usually enlarged. Over time, the joint enlarges and stiffens as it rubs against shoes. Other foot structures involved include the overlying skin and blood vessels and nerves connected to the involved toes.

Causes and symptoms

The shortening of tendons responsible for the control and movement of the affected toe or toes cause hammertoe. Top portions of the toes become callused from the friction produced against the inside of shoes. This common foot problem often results from improper fit of footwear. This is especially the case with high-heeled shoes placing pressure on the front part of the foot that compresses the smaller toes tightly together. The condition frequently stems from muscle imbalance, and usually leaves the affected individual with impaired balance.


A thorough medical history and physical exam by a physician is always necessary for the proper diagnosis of hammertoe and other foot conditions. Because the condition involves bony deformity, x rays can help to confirm the diagnosis.



Wearing proper footwear and stockings with plenty of room in the toe region can provide treatment for hammertoe. Stretching exercises may be helpful in lengthening the excessively tight tendons.


In advanced cases, where conservative treatment is unsuccessful, surgery may be recommended. The tendons that attach to the involved toes are located and an incision is made to free the connective tissue to the foot bones. Additional incisions are made so the toes no longer bend in a downward fashion. The middle joints of the affected toes are connected together permanently with surgical hardware such as pins and wire sutures. The incision is then closed with fine sutures. These sutures are removed approximately seven to ten days after surgery.

Alternative treatment

Various soft tissue and joint treatments offered by chiropractic and massage therapy may be useful to decrease the tightness of the affected structures.


If detected early, hammertoe can be treated non-surgically. If surgery becomes necessary, surgical risks are minimal with the overall outcome providing good results.


Wearing comfortable shoes that fit well can prevent many foot ailments. Foot width may increase with age. Feet should always be measured before buying shoes. The upper part of the shoes should be made of a soft, flexible material to match the shape of the foot. Shoes made of leather can reduce the possibility of skin irritations. Soles should provide solid footing and not be slippery. Thick soles lessen pressure when walking on hard surfaces. Low-heeled shoes are more comfortable, safer, and less damaging than high-heeled shoes.



American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society. 222 South Prospect, Park Ridge, IL 60068.
American Podiatry Medical Association. 9312 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda, MD 20814.


A toe, usually the second, that is permanently flexed downward, resulting in a clawlike shape.


, hammer toe (ham'er-to?)
A toe posture characterized by hyperextension of the metatarsophalangeal and distal interphalangeal joints and flexion of the proximal interphalangeal joint. Synonym: hallux malleus
References in periodicals archive ?
Factors which increase risk of hammertoe and mallet toe include:
Jo says that her condition is hereditary, but as she has only had a hammertoe for the past few years, I would say that it was caused by a combination of it running in the family and wearing high heels.
Modification of the flexor tendon transfer procedure for the correction of flexible hammertoe.
The patient was diagnosed with subacute, traumatically induced rupture of the plantar plate, HAV, and second hammertoe deformity (Fig.
As the name implies, a hammertoe faces downward, inviting corns and calluses to form on top.
Hammertoes or claw toes will typically be the result.
One orthopedic surgeon recently reported that of 800 patients who underwent surgery for bunions, 94% were women, and of 850 who had hammertoe surgery, 80% were women.
I declined, pleading a previous engagement, without telling him I was on my way to see a podiatrist about a hammertoe.
Sub-talar joint replacement is also gaining strength due to the rise of uncommon phalanx joint conditions such as hammertoe.
She is particularly interested in foot and ankle reconstructive surgery, bunion and hammertoe correction, sports injuries, and advanced wound care with a focus in Diabetic limb salvage.
Paragon 28 Launches Reconstruction System and Hammertoe Allograft System
It deals in offering a portfolio of staple and hammertoe implants and minimally invasive soft tissue recession instrumentation for foot, ankle and upper extremity procedures.