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What Is Hammertoe?

A hammertoe is a toe deformity in which the middle joint in the toe bends abnormally, causing the toe to point downward on an angle like a claw or hammer. It occurs in the four smallest toes of the foot, most commonly the second toe.  

Hammer toe is frequently caused by ill-fitting shoes and imbalances in the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the foot. If left untreated, it can cause foot pain and lead to other foot issues, such as corns, calluses and bunions. In severe cases, the tendons on top of the toes will tighten and shorten, which makes the toes rigid and difficult to move.  Surgery would then be required to correct it.  

Fortunately, these complications can be avoided with early treatment by a chiropodist (foot specialist).


What Are The Symptoms Of Hammertoe?

The most common symptoms of hammertoe are:

  • Toes that are bent at the middle joint in the shape of a claw or hammer, and may or may not straighten out.
  • Corns or blisters on top of the toes.
  • Inability to wiggle or move your toes.


What Causes Hammertoes?

Hammer toes are most frequently caused by repeatedly wearing ill-fitting footwear that forces the toes into a bent position (i.e.: high heels, shoes that are too narrow or too short).  If they are persistently crowded and forced into that bent position, they may ultimately stay that way and a hammer toe develops.

Other causes of hammertoe includes:

  • Genetics
  • Bunions – the displaced MTP joint (the joint at the base of the big toe) from a bunion puts pressure on the other toes and crowds them
  • Arthritis affecting the toe joints
  • Faulty foot mechanics and gait abnormalities
  • Weak Achilles tendon 
  • Weak Tibialis Anterior muscle


How Do I Treat Hammertoes?

There are many effective ways to fully treat and prevent hammertoe in its early stages, so the earlier you seek treatment from a foot specialist, the better.  These treatments seek to straighten and restore flexibility in the toes, find long term solutions to prevent recurrence and address any side effects or resulting foot issues (i.e.: corns).

The knowledgeable staff and foot specialists at our foot clinic can offer the following:

  • Corn Removal: Our chiropodists provide foot care services to treat corns, which are a common side effect of hammertoes. 
  • Splinting the toe to keep it straight and stretch the tendons
  • Stretching and strengthening your toe and surrounding foot muscles:  This will keep the toes straight and ensure the tendons don’t tighten around the toes.  It will also help prevent any biomechanical issues that may result from the foot’s attempt to compensate for weakened muscles.  You can check out some helpful stretches and strengthening exercises here.  
  • Roomier footwear:  Proper fitting footwear is crucial for hammertoe treatment and prevention.  Our curated selection of footwear includes shoes that are specially designed to accommodate the unusual shape of hammertoes.  We also offer many footwear options that will ensure proper muscle balance and weight distribution in your foot to prevent the issue from recurring or advancing.  
  • Custom orthotics that help correct faulty foot mechanics such as overpronation: The chiropodists at our clinic will perform a full biomechanical assessment and gait analysis to determine the root cause of your hammer toe(s) and may prescribe a custom foot orthotic if necessary.
  • Shockwave Therapy: Our chiropodists can use shockwave therapy to treat tight tendons and ligaments resulting from hammertoes.

While hammertoes can be easily treated in its earlier stages (so long as the joint remains flexible), if left untreated, it will progress and get worse.  When the joints become too rigid, surgery may be required.  

If your toes appear bent or you are experiencing mobility issues in your toes, you can schedule an assessment with one of our chiropodists using the booking form below, or contact our clinic directly at 416-769-FEET(3338). You can also drop by our clinic for a shoe fitting, where our knowledgeable staff will help you find proper-fitting shoes to accommodate your hammertoes.

Our Toronto foot clinic is open Mondays to Fridays from 10 am-6 pm, Saturdays from 9 am-4 pm and Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm. You do not need a referral to become a patient at our foot clinic.

Risk Factors

The following risk factors can make you more likely to get hammertoes:

  • Other foot deformities, like bunions and high arches:  These conditions take up extra space in your shoes, which then crowds your toes and bends them.
  • Arthritis affecting the toe joints
  • Having a second toe that is longer than the first toe.
  • Flat arches / flatfoot
  • Consistently wearing ill-fitting shoes or high heels.
  • Other disorders and medical conditions that affect the biomechanics of your toes


How Do I Prevent Hammertoe?

Here are various foot care solutions to prevent hammer toes:

  • Avoid pointy-toed flats, dress shoes or pumps (or try to minimize how frequently you wear them).
  • Avoid high heels.
  • Regularly strengthen and stretch the muscles in your feet and toes:  This is beneficial for our overall physical health in any event, so it’s a good idea to do this even if you don’t have hammertoes. 
  • Shoes with laces are highly recommended so that you will have more control over how tight your shoes are.
  • Correct abnormal biomechanics that can cause hammertoes:  This can be done with orthotics or insoles.

If you need help choosing hammertoe-friendly footwear, our knowledgeable staff can assist you in selecting supportive and accommodating sandals, shoes, and boots that conform to the unique physiology and biomechanical needs of your feet. 

Our foot clinic shoe store offers a large selection of footwear that can accommodate hammertoes. No appointment is required to browse and try on footwear.

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Carolina Charles

Patient Relation Coordinator (She/Her)

If you’ve been to the clinic before, chances are you had the pleasure of meeting Carolina! Carolina’s daily goal is going above and beyond to make sure patients are always completely satisfied. Having worked in the podiatry industry for 22 years, Carolina brings a wealth of knowledge pertaining to client service, insurance policies, and procedures. She steers the ship to make sure everything runs smoothly on the daily. Carolina is known for spicing up every outfit with her signature costume jewellery.