Hammertoes Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

October 15, 2020 1:34 pm Published by

Have you noticed your toes are starting to bend or look permanently arched? Are your protruding toes rubbing in your shoes and causing uncomfortable corns or calluses? 

You may have a foot condition called hammertoes. 

Let’s take a look at the common symptoms, causes and treatments to help you diagnose and correct your toe problems.

Hammertoes Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

What are Hammertoes Exactly?

Hammertoe is a foot deformity that occurs when the muscles, tendons, or ligaments in your toes become imbalanced and can no longer hold your toe straight, according to Mayoclinic. 

This foot condition gets its name for the hammerhead-like curve toes take when deformed. Similarly, this condition is also referred to as “mallet toe” for that same reason. 

Symptoms of Hammertoes

Usually, you can tell at a glance if you’re suffering from hammertoes by observing if your toes are affixed in a permanently arched position. However, there are also usually some clear symptoms you may be developing this foot deformity.  

  • Bending of the second, third, or fourth toe. While this condition can occur in any of your toes, the three middle toes are the most likely to be affected. Generally, it is easy to diagnose hammertoe at home, since it is evident that your toe sits in a bent position.
  • Difficulty moving or pain when bending the toes. Because this deformity is often the result of damage to or imbalance of the muscles, tendons, or ligaments in your toes, it can be difficult to move the affected area.
  • Corns or calluses on the toes. Painful sores can occur when you wear improperly fitted shoes, no matter if you have this condition or not. But because those with hammertoes have an arch in their toes, they sometimes wear shoes with a larger shoebox to avoid painful rubbing. Unfortunately, shoes that are too big can cause sliding inside of the shoe and result in the same painful sensation. Usually corns and calluses are a secondary symptom, caused by untreated hammertoes. 

Causes & Risk Factors of Hammertoes

Hammertoes are not something you are typically born with. Instead, they often develop and increase in severity with age and time.

Some reasons for the formation of mallet toes may include:

  • Shoes that fit poorly or arch your foot in an unnatural position that puts pressure on your toes, like heels
  • Genetics, including toe length or abnormal balance of the toe muscles, etc.
  • Trauma to the toes
  • Diseases, such as arthritis and diabetes

Read more about each of these causes of hammertoes by reading our other blog post all about it!

Treatment for Hammertoes

If your toes are already bent and painful, there isn’t really an easy “fix” for hammertoes. There are a few things you can do to find relief, though:

  • Wear footwear that gives your curled toes room. But be sure to not give your toes too much room, wherein they slide and rub uncomfortably in your shoes. Having your feet measured by a podiatrist or foot care specialist can help you determine your ideal fit.
  • Get custom fitted inserts. These may be used to pad areas of your shoe where toes are rubbing or to cushion beneath the painful toe arch. Here at Foot & Ankle, we can recommend specialized orthotics to relieve your aching, unlike generic pads you get at the pharmacy.
  • Ice your toes. This can help to reduce swelling from irritation. Stick to the traditional R.I.C.E method.
  • Massage your toes. Touch can help to increase circulation in your toes, which can be an issue for bent toes. Be gentle and perform massages like these from the Health Watch Center.
  • Use toe straighteners or splints. You may choose to wear these in your downtime or overnight to help correct the deformity.
  • In severe cases, operate. If your toe deformity becomes substantially painful or hinders your day-to-day life and previous treatment methods have failed, the “fix” you need may be surgery. Learn more about when it might be time for hammertoe surgery here.

Hammertoe Relief Treatments

Come into our office for a custom consultation. We’ll take X-rays to look at the severity of the deformity from the inside. In some cases, we’ll even run vascular testing to see if you’re getting proper blood flow to your toes.

From there, our team may offer unique toe pads or orthotics to reduce buckling in your shoes and help you find instant relief when walking. In severe cases, we can perform the surgery you need to eliminate your chronic pain.

Explore our Hammertoes Services and give us a call to set up an appointment at 239.936.5400, today.

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Welcome, Dr. Elaine Felix!


Dr. Felix has extensive training in treating all aspects of the foot and ankle including arthroscopy, sports injuries, trauma, reconstructive surgery, wound care, as well as forefoot and mid-foot surgery.
We are so excited to have her join our team!
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