What Is Hammertoe?
A hammer toe 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?
What Causes Hammertoes?
Hammer toes are most frequently caused by repeatedly wearing ill-fitting footwear (i.e.: high heels, shoes that are too narrow or too short) that forces the toes into a bent position. If they are persistently crowded and forced into that bent position, they stay that way and a hammer toe develops.
Other causes of hammertoe includes:
- 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 earlier 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 pads: These can help effectively treat corns, which may be a 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 happening again.
- 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.
Drop-in shoe fitting for hammer toes is also offered at our clinic.
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).
Our Toronto foot clinic is open Mondays to Fridays from 10am-6pm, and Saturdays from 9am-4pm. You do not need a referral to become a patient at our foot clinic.
The following risk factors can make you more likely to get hammertoe:
- 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-fitted 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 hammertoe.
- 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 assistance choosing hammertoe-friendly footwear, our Chiropodists (foot specialists) and knowledgeable staff can assist you in selecting supportive and accommodative sandals, shoes, and boots that conform to the unique physiology and biomechanical needs of your feet.
Our foot clinic shoe store is open six days a week and offers a large selection of footwear that can accommodate hammer toes. No appointment required.
Book an appointment for hammertoes
You do not need a referral to become a patient at our foot clinic. Schedule an appointment by using the Appointment Request form below or contact the clinic at 416-769-FEET(3338).