Learn About Hammer Toe

What is the definition of Hammer Toe?

Hammer toe is a deformity of the toe. The end of the toe is bent downward.

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What are the causes of Hammer Toe?

Hammer toe most often affects the second toe. However, it may also affect the other toes. The toe moves into a claw-like position.

The most common cause of hammer toe is wearing short, narrow shoes that are too tight. The toe is forced into a bent position. Muscles and tendons in the toe tighten and become shorter.

Hammer toe is more likely to occur in:

  • Women who wear shoes that do not fit well or often wear shoes with high heels
  • Children who wear shoes they have outgrown

The condition may be present at birth (congenital) or develop over time.

In rare cases, all of the toes are affected. This may be caused by a problem with the nerves or spinal cord.

What are the symptoms of Hammer Toe?

The middle joint of the toe is bent. The end part of the toe bends down into a claw-like deformity. At first, you may be able to move and straighten the toe. Over time, you will no longer be able to move the toe. It will be painful.

A corn often forms on the top of the toe. A callus is found on the sole of the foot.

Walking or wearing shoes can be painful.

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What are the current treatments for Hammer Toe?

Mild hammer toe in children can be treated by manipulating and splinting the affected toe.

The following changes in footwear may help relieve symptoms:

  • To avoid making the hammer toe worse, wear the right size shoes or shoes with a wide toe box for comfort
  • Avoid high heels as much as possible.
  • Wear shoes with soft insoles to relieve pressure on the toe.
  • Protect the joint that is sticking out with corn pads or felt pads.

A foot doctor can make foot devices called hammer toe regulators or straighteners for you. You can also buy them at the store. You can wear them to keep your toes straight.

Exercises may be helpful. You can try gentle stretching exercises if the toe is not already in a fixed position. Picking up a towel with your toes can help stretch and straighten the small muscles in the foot.

For severe hammer toe, you will need an operation to straighten the joint.

  • The surgery often involves cutting or moving tendons and ligaments.
  • Sometimes, the bones on each side of the joint need to be removed or connected (fused) together.

Most of the time, you will go home on the same day as the surgery. You may be able to put weight on your heel to walk around during the recovery period. However, you will not be able to push off or bend your toes in normal walking for a while. The toe may still be stiff after surgery, and it may be shorter.

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What is the outlook (prognosis) for Hammer Toe?

If the condition is treated early, you can often avoid surgery. Treatment will reduce pain and walking problems.

When should I contact a medical professional for Hammer Toe?

If you have hammer toe, contact your provider:

  • If you develop thick blisters or corns on your toes
  • If you develop sores over your toes that becomes red and swollen
  • If your pain gets worse
  • If you have difficulty walking or fitting into shoes comfortably
How do I prevent Hammer Toe?

Avoid wearing shoes that are too short or narrow. Check children's shoe sizes often, especially during periods of fast growth.

Hammer toe
What are the latest Hammer Toe Clinical Trials?
Opiate Free Multimodal Pain Pathway in Elective Foot and Ankle Surgery: A Prospective Study

Summary: Orthopedic surgeons frequently prescribe and over-prescribe narcotic pain medications during the postoperative period, despite the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States. While opioid-free multimodal pathways have shown promising results, there remains a lack of published literature evaluating opiate-free multimodal pain protocols for elective outpatient foot and ankle surgeries. This study ai...

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The Efficacy of Flexor Tenotomy on the Prevention of Recurrent Diabetic Foot Ulcers: a Randomized Controlled Trial

Summary: The main purpose of this study is to assess the efficacy of flexor tenotomy on the prevention of recurrence of toe ulcers in people with diabetes and a history of toe ulceration. Additionally, the investigators aim to assess interphalangeal joints (IPJ) and metatarsophalangeal joint (MTPJ) angles in a weight-bearing and non-weight-bearing position, bare-foot plantar pressure during walking and qua...

What are the Latest Advances for Hammer Toe?
Conservative Approach in the Management of Lesser Toe Deformities in Older Adults.
Forefoot Success.
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Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: September 20, 2022
Published By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Murphy AG. Lesser toe abnormalities. In: Azar FM, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 84.

Montero DP, Shi GG. Hammer toe. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD Jr, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 88.

Winell JJ, Davidson RS. The foot and toes. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 694.