A hammertoe is a toe that bends or curls downward in the middle of the toe, instead of pointing forward. The end of the toe curls up, making the toe look like a hammer. Hammertoe can affect any toe on your foot but most often it affects the second or third toe. Although you can be born with hammertoe, it usually develops over time as a result of wearing shoes that don’t fit properly. Narrow- and high-heeled shoes can jam the toes into a bent position. The toes rub against the shoe, leading to corns and calluses, which further aggravate the condition. Other conditions including arthritis, diabetes, Charcot-Marie-Tooth, bunions and Morton’s toe also contribute to the development of hammer toes.
Hammertoe can also be caused by a muscle imbalance. Initially, hammertoes are flexible and can be stretched. Muscles work in pairs to straighten and bend the toes. When there is an imbalance, the muscles tighten and over time the toe can no longer be straightened. Without proper treatment hammertoes can become permanent and can only be corrected by surgery.
Your toe rests in a bent position at the middle joint and curls upwards at the end
The top of your toe may hurt
Corns and calluses may appear on your toe
What Can I Do About It?
Your healthcare provider can diagnose your hammertoe through examination. A toe wrap can help treat hammer toes by holding two toes together to support and straighten them. Shoes should be soft and one-half inch longer than your longest toe with room at the front for the hammertoe. Sandals may help as long as they do not pinch or rub other areas of the foot. Exercises to gently stretch and strengthen the muscles are often helpful to help relieve pain.