Hammertoes - Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

May 15, 2023


How do I know if I have a hammertoe? Hammertoes can have an painful impact on your day-to-day activities. Luckily there are treatments we can offer to treat, relieve, and prevent your foot pain.

Hammertoe is a foot condition that causes one or more toes to become bent or curved, resembling a hammer. This condition can be painful and make it difficult to wear shoes or walk comfortably. In this blog post, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for hammertoes.

Causes of Hammertoes

Hammertoes can be caused by several factors, including genetics, arthritis, injury, and wearing unsupportive shoes. People who have a family history of hammertoes are more likely to develop the condition. Arthritis can also contribute to the development of hammertoes by causing inflammation and stiffness in the joints. Additionally, an injury to the toe can cause it to become deformed and bent.

Wearing shoes that are too tight or have high heels can also cause hammertoes. Tight shoes can put pressure on the toes and cause them to become deformed over time. High heels can also cause hammertoes by putting too much pressure on the ball of the foot and pushing the toes forward.

Symptoms of Hammertoes

The most common symptom of hammertoes is the appearance of a bent or curved toe that resembles a hammer. Other symptoms may include pain or discomfort in the affected toe, especially when wearing shoes or walking. The affected toe may also become red, swollen, or callused due to pressure from shoes. In severe cases, the affected toe may become rigid and unable to move.

Treatment Options for Hammertoes

There are several treatment options for hammertoes, ranging from conservative measures to surgical intervention. The choice of treatment will depend on the severity of the condition and the patient's individual needs and preferences.

Conservative Treatments

Conservative treatments for hammertoes include wearing comfortable shoes with a wide toe box that allows for more room for the toes. Shoes with a low heel can also help by reducing pressure on the ball of the foot. Orthotic devices, such as toe pads or inserts, can also provide cushioning and support for the affected toe.

Physical therapy exercises can also be helpful in reducing pain and improving mobility. Stretching and strengthening exercises can help to improve the range of motion in the affected toe and prevent further deformity.

Medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can also help to relieve pain and reduce inflammation in the affected toe. Certain injections can also be performed to relieve pain in the affected area. 

Surgical Treatments

In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to correct a hammertoe. Surgery may be recommended if conservative treatments are not effective in relieving pain or if the deformity is severe.

There are several surgical procedures that can be used to correct a hammertoe. The choice of procedure will depend on the severity of the deformity and the patient's individual needs and preferences.

One common surgical procedure for hammertoes is called an arthroplasty. This procedure involves removing a small piece of bone from the affected toe to straighten it. In some cases, the surgeon may also insert a pin or wire to hold the toe in place while it heals.

Another surgical procedure for hammertoes is called an arthrodesis. This procedure involves fusing the affected joint in the toe to prevent further deformity. This procedure may be recommended for patients with severe deformities or for those who have tried other treatments without success.

Recovery from surgical intervention for hammertoes can take several weeks to several months, depending on the extent of the surgery. Patients will typically be advised to wear a special shoe or cast to protect the toe while it heals. Physical therapy exercises may also be recommended to help improve mobility and prevent further deformity.

Prevention of Hammertoes

Preventing hammertoes is sometimes possible by taking steps to reduce the risk factors associated with the condition. The main way to prevent hammertoe formation is  wearing proper, comfortable, supportive shoes that do not alter your feet. Hammertoes may also be prevented through activity modification. If you believe you are at risk of a hammertoe, it is best to consult with a physician who specializes in the foot and ankle. At Garden State Pain and Orthopedics, Foot and Ankle Specialist  Dr. Scott Hanauer can help prevent and relieve foot pain. He focuses on creating a personalized health care plan in the most conservative way possible. 

For more information about our foot and ankle treatments visit our services page. To schedule an appointment with Dr Scott Hanauer select “Book Now” or visit our providers page to read more.