Hammer Toes – Causes and Treatment

What is Hammer Toe?

A hammertoe is a deformity of the proximal interphalangeal joint of a toe, which causes the joint to be permanently bent down in a rigid position over time. 

Hammertoe usually affects the second, third or fourth toes.

What causes hammer toe?

Hammertoe is often caused by wearing poorly fitting shoes which force the toe into a bent position. 


A toe that is forced into a bent position for long periods can lead to shortening of ligaments and tendons, resulting in the hammertoe deformity.

Also, people with certain medical conditions (such as arthritis, stroke, and diabetes) can be prone to developing a hammertoe deformity.

A hammer about to hit a toe, not what we mean.

What can result from hammer toes?

An illustration of a "hammer toe" showing how the toe points upwards at the first joint and down at the second joint causing pressure.

A hammer toe deformity in which the toe is fixed in that bent down position can cause pain when shoes rub  on the toe joint.

This rubbing can result in inflammation, corns, calluses or ulceration.

Hammer toes can increase the amount of forefoot pressure resulting in calluses to form on the ball of the foot.

How is hammertoe treated?

Conservative treatment is usually able to relieve pain and symptoms of hammertoe and can include:

  • Footwear advice (to ensure shoes have enough depth and width in the toe box)
  • Supportive orthotics (to reduce the amount of pressure on the hammertoe)
  • Debridement and offloading of corns and calluses
  • Anti-inflammatory medication may be recommended in some cases

Non-surgical treatment can help to relieve pain, but will not straighten or correct the hammertoe deformity.

If conservative treatment is not successful then surgery may be recommended to straighten the toe.

Book an appointment with our Podiatrist at Dynamic Podiatry if you are experiencing any problems with hammertoes by calling 3351 8878 or click on the Book Now button.