Hammer Toe

Hammer toe is a foot deformity that occurs due to an imbalance in the muscles, tendons, or ligaments that normally hold the toe straight. This results in a toe that remains bent at the middle joint in a claw-like position. This most commonly affects the second toe and those with longer second toes have a greater risk.

There are two types of hammer toes: flexible hammer toes and rigid hammer toes. Flexible hammer toes are in the early stages of deformity and the affected toes are still moveable. Rigid hammer toes are more severe. The tendon and joints become misaligned, completely prohibiting movement.

Hammer toe can lead to pressure and pain that will get worse overtime if left untreated. Eventually the deformity will become permanent. When detected in its early stages, the original shape can be regained with simple footwear changes. Severe cases may require surgical repair.


  • Pain, redness, or swelling where the toe is bent
  • A decrease in range of motion in the affected toes
  • Toe cramping that may extend into the foot and leg
  • Toe curling under


  • Improperly fitting footwear including inadequate room in the toe box or shoes that fit too small or too tight
  • Arthritis
  • Abnormal muscle balance in your toes

Risk Factors

  • Second toe length that is longer than the first and third toes
  • Genetics
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes


  • Physical examination to evaluate condition
  • X-ray to show evaluate potential damage to the bone

Treatment Options

  • Wearing of properly fitting shoes that allow all toes to extend to their natural state
  • Splints to help keep toes in the correct position
  • Home exercises including stretching and strengthening of the foot and toes
  • Surgical repair can be performed on the affected toes. Additionally, a surgical bone shortening can provide remedy