A hammertoe is a deformity of the toe in which the toe is bent toward the floor at the part of the toe called the proximal interphalangeal joint. The position of the toe resembles a hammer, hence the term “hammertoe”. It is usually the 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th toes that are affected. A similar condition involves bending of the toe toward the floor at both of its joints (proximal and distal interphalangeal joints). This condition is called clawtoe deformity as the toe resembles a claw.

Causes of Hammertoes or Clawtoes

The most common cause is from ill-fitting footwear such as shoes that or too short or narrow for the foot. Maintaining the toes in a bent position for extended periods of time can cause the muscles to shorten resulting in a hammertoe or clawtoe deformity. The bone may change shape due to long standing misalignment of the toe causing the deformity to become rigid or fixed in position.
Though hammertoes may run in the family, they are not hereditary. Although hammertoes are not inherited, it is possible to inherit a faulty foot structure which may lead to hammertoe formation.

Treatment of Hammertoes

Conservative or nonsurgical treatment is mainly focused on relieving pressure over the affected area and stopping the progression of the deformity. Methods commonly used to relieve pain and pressure from hammertoes include:

  • Changing footwear to shoes with soft and more spacious toe boxes.
  • Padding may help to reduce pressure and friction over the tops of the affected toes.
  • Orthotic devices to help realign and maintain correct foot position during standing and walking.
  • Removal of corns and calluses which form on the toes.

Surgical Treatment

If conservative measures do not adequately relieve symptoms surgical treatment may be advised. Surgery for a hammertoe or a clawtoe may involve removal of a portion of the bone in a procedure called an arthroplasty or a procedure involving fusion of the affected joint called an arthrodesis may be performed.




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