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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.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A toe, usually the second, that is permanently flexed downward, resulting in a clawlike shape.
The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


, 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
Medical Dictionary, © 2009 Farlex and Partners
References in periodicals archive ?
Hammertoes also may cause pain in the ball of the foot at the base of the affected toe.
Hammertoe and bunion correction solutions are portfolio staples at Additive Orthopaedics LLC, Centric Medical, In2Bones Global Inc., and Novastep Inc.
Though surgery can fix the problem, Sutera cautioned against rushing into the operating room, suggesting patients consider surgery only if they are "miserable" and unable to find shoes that accommodate their feet; if the hammertoe limits their physical activity and prevents them from walking or exercising; or if, after changing shoes and trying anti-inflammatory medications, "you're constantly in pain."
If pain persists despite changes in footwear and other interventions, or if you have difficulty walking because of bunions and hammertoes, surgery may help.
Women are much more likely to develop hammertoe or mallet toe than are men.
HOW TO TREAT A HAMMERTOE Sam Singh, a consultant orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon at Guy's and St Thomas's and privately at The Lister Hospital in Chelsea, London, says: "A hammertoe is caused by an imbalance of tendons in the foot.
Wearing shoes and stockings with plenty of toe room is a treatment for hammertoe. In very serious cases, surgery may be needed.
"Hammertoe: The result of a klutzy carpenter." (e-mail, 2002)
The dance instructor also had underlying forefoot pathology consisting of hallux abducto valgus (HAV) and a second hammertoe. These deformities were also addressed at the time of surgery.
In the meantime, we fell victim to a host of afflictions, a short list of which included: eczema, hives, scabies, halitosis, toothache, periodontal disease, lactose intolerance, gassiness, dyspepsia, charley horse, athlete's foot, bunions, hammertoe, gout, dropsy, scurvy, sickle cell anemia, insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, moodiness, fatigue, migraine, chills, sneezing, sniffling, congestion, hacking cough, and the grippe.
More than 70% of American women suffer from foot problems related to wearing uncomfortable high-heeled shoes, which results in such foot ailments as metatarsalgia (pare in the ball of the foot), Achilles tendonitis, hammertoe and bunions.