Site Map

Hammer toe

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

Images

Hammer toe

I Would Like to Learn About:

Causes

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:

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.

Symptoms

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.

Exams and Tests

A physical exam of the foot confirms that you have hammer toe. The health care provider may find decreased and painful movement in the toes.

Treatment

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

The following changes in footwear may help relieve symptoms:

A foot doctor can make foot devices called hammer toe regulators or straighteners for you. You can also buy them at the store.

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.

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. The toe may still be stiff after surgery, and it may be shorter.

Outlook (Prognosis)

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

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If you have hammer toe, call your provider:

Prevention

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

References

Murphy AG. Lesser toe abnormalities. In: Azar FM, Beaty JH, Canale ST, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 83.

Montero DP. Hammer toe. In: Frontera, WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD Jr, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 88.

Winell JJ, Davidson RS. The foot and toes. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 674.

BACK TO TOP

Review Date: 8/15/2018  

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

ADAM Quality Logo

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, for Health Content Provider (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2019 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.