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Hammertoe is a common term used to describe a deformity that occurs in the middle toes. The condition causes the first joint in your second, third or fourth toe to contract and bend inward and give the appearance of the head of a hammer, hence the nickname. When diagnosed and treated early, the condition may be repaired through non-surgical methods. If left untreated, the toes may become so stiff that you can't move them at all and surgery may be the only way to provide relief and restoration of mobility and function.


  • Improperly fitted shoes
  • Heredity
  • Contraction of tendons in the foot, causing deformity
  • Muscle imbalances in the toes
  • Wearing high heels


  • Toe deformity
  • Pain
  • Immobility or limited range of motion in the affected toe/s
  • Callus or corn growth caused by constant friction with shoes
  • Difficulty moving the toe/s
  • Difficulty walking or running


Your doctor may be abl e to diagnose hammertoe by physical and visual examination.


The first approach to hammertoe treatment is to wear better fitting shoes. Your podiatrist or doctor may suggest special shoe inserts called orthotics, or shoe pads that help realign the foot inside the shoe. Opt for shoes that give you at least 1/2 inch of space between the top of the toe and the shoe. Wearing flat-heeled shoes with mesh-type toe areas may also provide relief and give the toes room to stretch.

Your doctor may also recommend exercises to help increase toe dexterity and function.

In cases where the tendons in the toe have shortened and literally frozen in place, your doctor may recommend hammertoe repair or correction.


Before the hammertoe correction procedure, you'll be given a local anesthesia.

  • An incision is made over the affected knuckle
  • Tendons are severed and realigned
  • Middle joints of the toes may be fused together for stability
  • In some cases, a small portion of bone may be removed from the joint
  • The incision is closed with sutures
  • A dressing is placed over the incision area

Following the surgical correction procedure, you may need to wear special shoes while the toes heal. Your doctor may suggest you refrain from excessive activity or exercise for up to six weeks after the surgery.