Hammer/ clawed Toes

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What is Hammer /Clawed Toes?

This is a plantar flexion deformity of the proximal inter phalangeal joint, the distal interphalangeal joint remaining normal or possibly dorsiflexed, it can occur at any of the 3 middle toes, second being the most commonly affected.


  • Toes are bent upward

  • Toes are bent downward (Flexion) at the middle joints towards the sole of your shoe.

  • Corns may develop over the top of the toe or under the ball of the foot

Claw toes deformities are usually flexible at first, but harden into place over time. If you have claw toe in early stages, Gait Maxx Foot Specialists (Pedorthist) may recommend an orthotic or tape to hold your toes in correct position.

More About Hammer Toes.

Hammer toes are a common foot deformity in which one or more of the smaller toes, usually the second, third, fourth, or fifth toe, become bent or curled at the middle joint, resembling a hammer. This condition can be uncomfortable and, in some cases, painful. Hammer toes are often caused by a combination of factors, including muscle imbalances, footwear choices, and underlying medical conditions. There are two primary types of hammer toes:

  1. Flexible Hammer Toes: In the early stages, the affected toe(s) can still be straightened manually, and the joint remains mobile. However, over time, if left untreated, flexible hammer toes can become more rigid.

  2. Rigid Hammer Toes: In this advanced stage, the toe(s) cannot be straightened manually, and the joint becomes fixed in a bent position. Rigid hammer toes are often more painful and may require more aggressive treatment.

Common causes and risk factors for hammer toes include:

  • Footwear: Wearing shoes that are too tight or have a narrow toe box can force the toes into an unnatural position over time.
  • Toe Length Discrepancy: If one toe is significantly longer than the others, it can increase the risk of developing a hammer toe.
  • Muscle and Tendon Imbalances: Weak or imbalanced muscles and tendons in the foot can contribute to toe deformities.
  • Trauma: A previous injury or trauma to the toe can lead to a hammer toe.
  • Arthritis: Some types of arthritis can affect the joints of the toes and contribute to deformities like hammer toes.

Symptoms of hammer toes can include:

  • Pain or discomfort when walking or wearing shoes.
  • Corns or calluses developing on the top or tip of the affected toe(s) due to friction.
  • Redness, inflammation, or swelling at the joint of the bent toe.
  • Limited mobility of the affected toe(s).

Treatment options for hammer toes depend on the severity of the condition. In milder cases, conservative measures may be effective and can include:

  1. Footwear Changes: Wearing shoes with a roomy toe box and good arch support can alleviate pressure on the toes and reduce discomfort.

  2. Toe Exercises and Splinting: Physical therapy exercises and toe splints can help improve toe alignment and flexibility.

  3. Corns and Callus Management: Podiatrists can remove painful corns and calluses and offer guidance on how to prevent them.

  4. Orthotic Devices: Custom-made orthotic inserts can provide support and help correct foot imbalances.

In more severe cases or when conservative treatments do not provide relief, surgical intervention may be necessary to straighten the affected toe(s) and relieve pain. The specific surgical procedure will depend on the severity and type of hammer toe.

If you suspect you have a hammer toe or are experiencing foot pain or discomfort, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional or a podiatrist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment recommendations. Early intervention can help prevent the condition from worsening.

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