Hammertoes (Toe Pain)

Photo of woman grabbing her hammertoe

Could I have Hammertoes?

To start finding out, take a closer look at where you feel pain in your foot.

What areas of my foot hurt? Hammertoes affect these regions of your foot:

A Toes

B Bottom & ball of foot at base of toes

What causes hammertoes?

Photo of woman taking off her high heel shoes and displaying her hammertoe

Hammertoes form when the muscles in the toes and ball of the foot aren't working together correctly. The imbalance can push toes out of proper alignment in a few ways

Your toe may:
  • Pull back, forcing the knuckle up.
  • Pinch or mash up against other toes.

The discomfort may only be mild at first, but walking can become difficult and painful if it progresses. If the toe fully retracts, it can be difficult to straighten out and may require surgery.

Genetics can play a role in hammertoes—the structure of the bones, muscles, and ligaments in some feet unfortunately make them more prone to the condition.

The experts at FootSmart and The Podiatry Institute agree that several other factors can lead to hammertoes such as:

  • Shoes that are too tight, too short, too pointy or otherwise put pressure on the toes. Pointy high heels are common culprits.
  • Flat feet or high arches—both make feet less stable.
  • Arthritis or injury to the foot, especially if it causes an unnatural walk.
  • Bunions that push the second toe out of place.
Think you might have hammertoes?TAKE THIS SELF-ASSESSMENT
Self- Assessment
Quiz

Do I have?

  • Toes that appear crooked or misshapen?
  • Protruding knuckles that form corns or rub in shoes?
  • A long second toe that is often crowded or bent?
  • Toes that don't rest flat on the ground?
  • A bunion that's cramping the second toe?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you most likely have hammertoes. Keep reading for recommendations on treatment and relief from the experts at FootSmart and The Podiatry Institute.

Are there any serious concerns with
Hammertoes?

As hammertoes progresses, walking can become difficult and painful. If your toes become severely bent or out of alignment and cannot be straightened with other treatment, you may require surgery.

How Do I Treat and Prevent Hammertoes?

Wearing shoes with a wide toe box is the easiest way to avoid developing hammertoes. Shoes with extra depth and room help relieve the pressure of standing and walking on your toes.

Photo diagram of someone wearing a toe straghtener to help improve hammertoe

If hammertoes are already causing discomfort, these recommendations from the experts at FootSmart and The Podiatry Institute should help you find relief.

Also try the following to keep toes separated:

If non-surgical treatments do not work and your hammertoe continues to be painful and cause irritation, then you may want to consider surgery. The experts at FootSmart and the Podiatry Institute agree that you should talk to your podiatrist and receive a complete foot examination before considering surgery.