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How To Know If You Have A Hammertoe And What Causes Them

Hammertoes are caused by a soft tissue imbalance of the tendons and ligaments that control and support the toes. The toe can be contracted at the middle joint, end joint or both. Hammertoes become more rigid and less flexible over time. The toe loses the ability to straighten out, or reduce. More times than not, the hammertoe itself isn’t painful, but it can be aggravated depending on the shoes you choose to wear. We recommend staying away from tight or pointy shoes if you are developing a hammertoe or have a family history of hammertoes. In many cases, hammertoes are accompanied by corns and calluses, which are often caused by the same type of shoes.

What Hammertoes Look Like

The name is recognizable, but how did hammertoes get their name? The reason is because when toes bend they resemble hammers. There are two types of hammertoes: flexible hammertoes and rigid hammertoes.


  • Flexible Hammertoes: These toes can still be moved at the joint and can often be treated personally. Patients with flexible hammertoes are encouraged to stretch often and switch up the footwear they use to something with a wider base. They even have the option to wear toe splints. Flexible hammertoes, if approached early enough, can be treated to prevent them from becoming rigid hammertoes.

  • Rigid Hammertoes:. These toes cannot be moved because the tendons and joints have become rigid. Rigid Hammertoes usually require surgery. This type of hammertoe is more common with patients with arthritis, and usually occurs when treatment is ignored.

Causes of Hammertoes

Poorly-fitting shoes often contribute to hammertoes, but do not necessarily cause the condition. Shoes that are either too tight, too short, or pointy at the tip often times force your toes into uncomfortable positions that ultimately stretch the tendons causing long term damage. When toes are jammed together in shoes that don’t fit properly, one toe may naturally take more of a mechanical advantage over a surrounding tendon. Long story short, find comfortable shoes and if you need help finding the right shoes for your feet, consult a podiatrist.


Foot injuries can also lead to hammertoes. Breaking or stubbing your toe, could result in a hammertoe if the proper healing doesn’t take place. If you suffer from arthritis, diabetes, stroke or neuromuscular conditions, you may be at a higher risk for hammertoes and should visit your podiatrist immediately. They can recognize signs and symptoms to help you avoid these problems in the future. Lastly, even if you aren’t affected by the conditions above, hammertoes can run in the family. If your family has a history of having unstable feet with flat or high arches, it may be a good idea to get them looked at by a professional.

If you think you have early symptoms of hammertoes, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your local podiatrist. Your foot doctor can help you determine the cause of your hammertoe and point you in the right direction for treatment options. Call Kansas City Foot Specialists to schedule an evaluation at (913) 325-2958, or request an appointment online so we can determine the true cause of your injury and get you back on your feet.