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What is a Hammer Toe?

A hammertoe, or hammer toe, is a deformity of the foot that can affect any of the three toes in the center of the foot. Over time, hammer toes can produce a number of uncomfortable symptoms that typically require treatment.

A hammer toe is a toe that is bent into a claw-like position. Most often, hammer toe develops with the second toe, but it is also possible for the third or fourth toe to become bent in this way.

Hammer Toe Stages of Development

A progressive condition, a hammer toe develops gradually over time. While the amount of time it takes for the problem to arise may vary, a hammer toe usually develops in stages:

  1. Pressure causes the toe to bend inward at the middle joint.
  1. Over time, the pressure causes the ligaments that hold the muscles of the toe to the phalanges bone of the toe and the tendons that connect the muscles to change in shape.
  1. As the ligaments and muscles change, the toe begins to curl. At this stage, you can typically still bend and straighten your toe with effort.
  1. Further shortening and tightening of the tendons and ligaments make the hammer toe more noticeable. It no longer becomes possible to bend or straighten the toe. Eventually, you may not even be able to move the joint with your fingers.

Symptoms of a Hammer Toe

Usually, you can spot a hammer toe just by looking at it, but the condition can cause other symptoms. Many people with hammer toes experience pain and inflammation in the affected toe as the condition worsens. You may also develop corns and calluses frequently due to the misalignment of your toes.

Causes of Hammer Toes

Hammer toes are usually caused by wearing shoes that fit too tightly. Learn more about hammer toe causes »

Hammer Toes Treatment

For a hammer toe in the early stages, it's often possible to address the condition simply by wearing more comfortable shoes. Once the toe becomes more bent, other interventions are usually needed. Learn more about hammer toe treatment »