A deformity of the second, third, or fourth toe, hammertoe occurs when the middle joint of the toe is bent, making it resemble a hammer. People with this condition may also have calluses or corns on either the tip of the toe, or the middle joint. Hammertoes can cause pain in the toes or feet, and make it hard to find comfortable shoes.

If they’re left untreated, hammertoes can become inflexible or rigid, with the joint unable to bend. Inflexible hammertoes require surgery to repair.

Causes and treatment of hammertoe

Hammertoe is most often caused by wearing ill-fitting shoes. The condition occurs more frequently in women who wear short, narrow shoes or high heels, or in children who wear shoes they’ve outgrown. Sometimes, hammertoe can be congenital (present at birth). In rare cases, a problem with the spinal cord or nerves can cause this condition in all of the toes.

Treatment for hammertoes that are still flexible usually involves wearing soft, roomy shoes with wide toe boxes. Toe exercises are used to strengthen the muscles, and straps, cushions, or corn pads can be used to relieve pain.

Severe cases of hammertoe may require surgery to correct the condition.