What is a Hammer Toe?

If you have a hammer toe, or know someone who does, you may wonder what caused it. Check out this simple explanation with pictures!

A hammer toe, also referred to as claw toe or mallet toe, is an abnormal bend in the middle of one or more toes. This can cause the top of the toe to rub against the shoe causing blisters, calluses, or corns which can be painful. It can also irritate the tip of the toe as it’s forced into the ground. 1-3

Toes-lateral-healthy Healthy Foot
Toes-lateral-hammertoe Hammer Toe

Hammer toes can develop because of:1-3

  • an abnormal balance of the toe muscles, tendons or ligaments
  • foot trauma (like repeatedly stubbing the toe)
  • inflammatory conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis or gout
  • the fit of certain types of shoes, like high heels
  • gender (women are more susceptible)

Questions To Ask When Considering Hammer Toe Surgery

While hammer toes may not be completely preventable, the Mayo Clinic suggest a few things you can do to lower your risk of developing one.1  Since our feet swell throughout the day, consider shoe shopping at the end of the day. This may help ensure that your toes have enough room. They also recommend shoes with straps or laces as they tend to be more adjustable to the needs of your feet. 

If you have a hammer toe that’s painful or causes you difficulty when walking, you may want to talk to your doctor or a podiatrist (a doctor who specializes in foot problems).

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  1. Hammertoe and Mallet Toe (2018, Dec 20). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hammertoe-and-mallet-toe/symptoms-causes/syc-20350839
  2. Hammertoe Surgery (n.d.) American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society FootCareMD. https://www.footcaremd.org/conditions-treatments/toes/hammertoe-surgery
  3. Hammertoe Repair (2019, Sep 11) Aetna. http://www.aetna.com/cpb/medical/data/600_699/0636.html

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