What Is Hammertoe?

what is hammertoe

Though most people have small toes, they play a significant role in determining how they walk or stand. When you take a step when walking, your toes help you make a little push off the ground. While standing, your toes help you to constantly maintain balance.

When you have a toe experiencing pain, the way you stand or walk can be affected. Hammertoe is a toe deformity that can affect the way you stand or walk.

What Is Hammertoe?

Hammertoe is also known as rotated toe or contracted toe. It occurs when ligaments and muscles surrounding the joints on your toe become imbalanced. When they imbalance, the ligaments and muscles make the center joint of the toe turn downward. This makes the tip of your toe affected look like a claw or hammer.


When there is an increased imbalance in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons around your toes, one of the toes can start contracting and bend after a certain period. Several factors are responsible for causing hammertoe, including wearing poorly fitting footwear, high heels, and your toes squeezing together because of pointed or narrow toes boxes.

Some conditions such as arthritis, injury, diabetes, and heredity can increase your possibility of suffering from hammertoe in the future.


When the hammertoe is in its initial stages, your toe will start bending upwards. You may not notice the bend at first since the change occurs slowly. With time, the joints become stiffer, making you experience pain when you move your toe.

Calluses and blisters are likely to appear on your toe when you’re suffering from this condition. If injury or trauma is the cause of your hammertoe condition, your toe affected might suddenly appear twisted at the joint.

Diagnosis and Treatment

When you have a hammertoe, your doctor can diagnose the condition by performing a physical exam on the affected foot to determine if the joint is rigid or flexible. The information acquired will help your physician to determine which treatment is appropriate for your condition. Some of the treatment options for hammertoe include:

*Orthotic Devices

Orthotic devices are custom shoe inserts that control the movement and function of your foot.


Your doctor may prescribe taking anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate the pain from your hammertoe condition.

*Insulating Padding

Insulating padding can minimize pressure around the hammertoe and change your muscle imbalance status.


If you experience severe pain from your hammertoe condition, your doctor can recommend surgery, especially if you have used non-surgical treatments that have not helped.


If you see the signs of hammertoe developing on your toe, several do-it-yourself tips can help prevent the condition from further developing. For instance, soaking your feet regularly in warm water, wearing toe-friendly shoes, and stretching your ankles and toes every day can help prevent your tendons from tightening.

When to Inform your Doctor

If pain develops on your feet or toes and lasts for several days without going away, you should seek help from your doctor. You should also see your health care professional immediately when you notice one of your toes starts curling.