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Hammertoes – Frequently Asked Questions


What is hammertoe?

Hammertoe is a deformity that happens when there is an imbalance of the muscles that flex or extend the toes. This causes bending of the toes which places pressure on the top or tip of the toe in shoes. This can occur in one or both joints of the second, third, fourth or fifth (little) toes. When it happens in the big toe, it is called hallux malleus. If the joint on one of your toes points upward rather than lying flat, you might have a hammertoe.

What causes hammertoes?
Hammertoes can be caused by genetics, an underlying medical condition, or wearing shoes that don’t give your toes enough room. There are also other things that can lead to hammertoes including:

  • a toe injury

  • arthritis

  • an unusually high or low foot arch

  • tightened ligaments or tendons in the foot

  • pressure from a bunion

What are the symptoms of hammertoes?
A hammer toe hurts when you walk. It can also cause you pain when you try to stretch or move the toe or toes around it. Hammer toe symptoms can range from mild to moderate to severe. Other symptoms include:

  • Redness and irritation

  • corns and calluses

  • inability to flex your foot or wiggle your toes

What is the difference between hammertoes, mallet toes, and claw toes?

Depending on which joints in the toe are bent, it can be a hammertoe, a claw toe, or a mallet toe. Hammertoes are bent at the middle joint only. Mallet toes are bent at the end joint. Claw toes are bent at the middle and end joints forcing the toe to curl like a claw.

Can you reverse a hammer toe?

If the damage isn’t severe, you may be able to reverse a hammertoe or at least lessen its severity. First, wear comfortable shoes that have plenty of room for your toes to stretch out. You can also exercise your toes to loosen the muscles and relax the tendons:


  1. Gently pull on your toes to straighten them.

  2. Stretch the bent joints in the opposite direction.

  3. Perform towel curls – lay a towel on the floor and crumple it with your toes.

  4. Pick up marbles or other small objects with your toes.

Consult a doctor or physical therapist for more exercises.

What is a hammer toe splint?

There are splints and wraps designed to hold two toes together to keep the hammertoe in place and prevent it from bending or rubbing against other toes or your shoe.

How is hammer toe surgery performed?

If the toe is flexible, a simple tendon release procedure can be performed. This consists of making a small incision on the side of the toe and cutting the tendon in the bottom of the toe. If it is more severe, joint resection may be required. With a joint resection, an incision is made over the top of the toe. Ligaments and tendons may be cut to help with straightening the toe. The end of the bone is removed to allow the toe to straighten completely, and pins are temporarily used to hold the toe straight. This fuses the two pieces of bone together resulting in permanent straightening of the toe.

How long before you can walk after hammertoe surgery?

In most cases, walking is allowed right after surgery. Consult your podiatrist to be sure.

If you suffer from foot pain due to hammertoes, give us a call and let us tell you your options. We may be able to treat it without surgery, but if you do need surgery, we have a surgery center on-site for quick and convenient treatment. Call us at (913) 338-4440 or contact us online.