Back

Hammer Toe

(Hammertoe)

Definition

A hammer toe is a toe that tends to remain bent at the middle joint in a claw-like position. There are 2 types of hammer toe:
Hammertoe
nucleus image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

Hammer toe may be present at birth or develop later in life due to tendons that have tightened, causing the toe's joints to curl downward.
Occasionally, all toes may be bent. This may be due to problems with the peripheral nerves or the spinal cord.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of getting hammer toe include:

Symptoms

If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to hammer toe. Talk to your doctor about symptoms such as:

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam of the toe will be done. Your doctor can diagnose hammer toe by its appearance.

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Supportive Care

The toe will need time to heal. This may include:
  • Splinting the affected toe
  • Switching to properly sized footwear with roomy toe boxes
  • Splints, straps, cushions, or corn pads to relieve symptoms

Corrective Surgery

Severe cases require an operation to straighten the joint:
  • Tendons may be cut or transferred
  • The middle joint of the toe may be fused together
  • Part of the toe or joint may be removed

Prevention

To help reduce your chances of getting hammer toe, take the following steps:

RESOURCES

American Podiatric Medical Association http://www.apma.org

OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://orthoinfo.aaos.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

Nurses Entrepreneurial Foot Care Association of Canada http://www.nefca.ca

References

Hammer toe. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00160. Updated September 2012. Accessed March 2, 2015.

Hammertoe. Foot Health Facts—American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.foothealthfacts.org/footankleinfo/hammertoes.htm. Accessed March 2, 2015.

Hammer toe. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 25, 2010. Accessed March 2, 2015.

Revision Information