Can hammertoes be corrected

Everything you need to know about hammer toe

If hammer toe is caught early enough, it can be managed with some lifestyle changes and exercises.

Treatment for mild hammer toe

If the hammer toe is treated while the toe is still flexible, a doctor may recommend the following:

  • Exercises such as picking up marbles with the toe.
  • Switching to proper footwear with low heels and a roomy box.
  • Gently stretching the toe manually several times a day.
  • A podiatrist may be able to create a shoe insert to reduce pain and stop the hammer toe from worsening.
  • Using over-the-counter corn pads and foot straps to relieve some of the painful symptoms.
  • Sometimes a doctor might use a cortisone injection to relieve pain.

It is important not to pop any blisters that might occur on the foot as this can lead to infection.

Hammer toe surgery

If the hammer toe cannot be moved, a doctor may recommend surgery for the toe.

The surgery aims to reposition the toe, realign tendons, and remove deformed or injured bone. Often, surgery is carried out as an outpatient, so the individual can normally go home on the same day as the procedure.

Possible surgical procedures include:

  • Arthroplasty – half of the joint under the crooked part of the toe is removed to help the toe straighten.
  • Arthrodesis – similar to above, but the entire joint is removed and a wire or pin is inserted to help healing.
  • Tendon transfer – tendons from under the toe are rerouted to above the toe to aid straightening. This procedure may be done in conjunction with other surgical interventions.
  • Basal phalangectomy – for individuals with severe stiffness. The base of the bone underneath the toe is removed.
  • Weil osteotomy – metatarsal bone is shortened and surgical hardware is inserted to aid healing.


Hammer toe, like many other foot problems, can be avoided with wearing proper footwear. Proper footwear should have the following:

  • Low heels – higher heels force the feet into unnatural positions and often bend the toes.
  • Enough toe room – shoes should be properly sized and pointy-toed shoes should be avoided. Shoes should accommodate for the longest toe, which may not always be the big toe.
  • Adjustability – shoes with adjustable laces and straps are best.
  • Proper arch support – arch support prevents a number of foot ailments.

Long-term outlook

Hammer toe can be treated and prevented with simple exercises and footwear changes. However, if the toe becomes rigid, surgery may be needed to relieve the hammer toe.

Even after treatment, hammer toe may return. The best way to make sure that hammer toe does not reoccur is through choosing proper footwear.

How To Treat Crooked Toes

Written by: Tao Schencks – Updated Tuesday, February 26, 2019

“There was a crooked man, who had a crooked house. He had a crooked cat, and…he had some crooked toes….”

Hang on… that’s not how the nursery rhyme goes, is it?

Having crooked toes is not the natural state for your feet, either. Our feet have a duty that weighs heavy on them – they carry our FULL body around on a daily basis, and that’s no easy feat for such significant extremities.

3% of US adults over the age of 21 suffer from crooked or hammer toes, according to The Institute For Preventative Foot Health.

And yet we often forget to respect and look after our feet, then wonder in shock at the apparent deformity that tends to develop over time.

Do you have crooked toe pain?

Foot pain is frequently overlooked as ‘just one of those things’, although it’s likely that there’s more to it than simple aches and twinges.

What are some common crooked toe pain symptoms?

  • Tenderness.
  • Swelling.
  • Corns or calluses.
  • Bunions.
  • Mis-shapen, bent or wonky toes.
  • Inflammation.
  • Joint stiffness.

Tenderness around the area is a potential sign that at least one of your toes is out of alignment, and a crooked toe complaint can present itself in a number of ways.

Swelling around the joint with pain, inflammation and redness indicates a definite problem.

Jen’s mangled feet from the IT Crowd

If your shoes are giving you grief, you have open sores, or painful calluses, it’s very probable that those little digits at the end of your feet need some well-deserved attention.

Often referred to as bunions, hammer toe, claw toe or mallet toe, crooked toes are a common and lasting issue for many individuals, and can cause a great deal of discomfort.

What causes crooked toes?

Although crooked toes can be triggered by hereditary health issues such as arthritis, according to Dr Ray at Northwest Foot And Ankle, the leading cause of crooked toes is often down to wearing conventional – and especially ill-fitting – footwear.

Shoes that elevate your heels are a common culprit, as the very structure forces your toes into an unnatural position.

Similarly, ‘toe spring’ shoes can also be a problem. If you consider a pair of athletic shoes, you’ll notice how the front of the shoe curves up.

This design feature manipulates your toes into an upward position, putting a strain on the tendons and bones in the foot.

Do bad shoes = bad toes?

Deformities aren’t all caused by stilettos and training shoes, however. In fact, most ‘flat’ shoes tend to incorporate a slight elevation in the heel, and generally encompass a toe spring.

More significantly, tapered toe boxes (the toe area of the shoe) force the toes into a reversed triangular shape.

The big toe is pushed inwards, causing the metatarsal to protrude and bulge on the inner side of the foot.

When we are born, our feet are ready-formed with the toes splayed outwards, much like many other mammals and creatures, to assist with balance and correct posture as nature intended. And yet we squeeze them into shoes that change their biological shape, albeit in a bid to keep them protected.

This great video explains why high heels cause hammertoe.

It also explains that if you have to wear heels, make sure to flex and stretch your toes afterwards or use a product like YogaToes, which I have reviewed on this site.

How to straighten a crooked big toe.

  • Use a bunion splint to pull the toe away from the other toes.
  • Regularly stretch the toe away from the others.
  • Don’t wear restrictive or pointed shoes.
  • Use a toe spreader to stretch your toes out.

We have covered big toe pain in a previous article, but as confirmed by the experts over at the excellent Sports Injury Clinic website, one of the most widespread complaints affecting the largest toe, is Hallux Valgus; or as it is more commonly known, a bunion.

As mentioned above, this can be hereditary in both women and men, but it tends to be more prevalent in women (although only just when a study compared against African-American men)

You will generally be more at risk of developing bunions if you have a history of arthritis, have experienced foot trauma, over-pronation, and last but not least, ill-fitting shoes.

Ensuring that children have shoes that are long enough, or wide enough in adults can help to prevent this issue, but fortunately there are options that can help to correct it, too.

This person’s foot shows a good example of a Bunion and also some crooked toes.

How to fix a crooked second toe?

  • Use a toe spreader or spacer to straighten the toe.
  • Wear proper shoes that do not crowd your toes.

This can happen to any toe, but hammer toe, or digitus malleus, commonly occurs in the second or third toe.

The deformity presents itself through a curling of the toe, or bending at the middle toe joint, which causes a ‘hammerhead’ shape – often resulting in sores or calluses on the joint.

As with bunions, the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society confirm that hammer toe can be caused by ill-fitting shoes, foot injuries or arthritis.

Types of hammer toe:

  • Flexible hammer toe – the toe can still be moved at the joint.
  • Rigid hammer toe – the toe is immobile.

Rigid hammer toe usually happens when the tendons become stiff and inflexible and often will need to be corrected with surgery.

How to straighten crooked toes without surgery.

So, what are we to do, short of leaving our feet as nature intended for the rest of our lives?

Of course, prevention is better than cure, and going barefoot where possible will go a long way to stave off any potential problems, as will wearing shoes that don’t force your feet into an unnatural position.

But thanks to fashion and modern trends, it’s unlikely that correctly fitting footwear is going to explode onto the market and change “toe-attire” any time soon.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help your toes and hopefully banish a lot of the discomfort.

Wear proper shoes to prevent bad toes.

First of all, finding the best shoe-fit you can will be a good first step. Avoid a pointed toe box and choose shoes where your longest toe doesn’t touch the end of the toe box/toe area. Softer material may also help.

Following that, it is possible to correct the misalignment of your toes, and it doesn’t have to involve surgery (which should really only be considered if all other options have been explored, and if the individual is experiencing severe pain on a daily basis).

Stretch, exercise and massage your toes.

Regardless of whether your complaint is that of bunions or hammer toe, you can help your long-suffering tootsies by treating them to a regular exercise program, as well as massage, to ease out any stiffness.

This video from The Health Channel gives some simple and effective exercises that can be done at home or work to help relieve hammertoe pain.

Use products like toe stretchers.

There are also a number of corrective gadgets on the market, such as toe spacers, which can go a long way to help realign toes.

You can wear them on their own, under socks, or in a correctly-fitting shoe.

Do toe straighteners work?

Toe straighteners are a good option to fix your toes’ alignment without the need to perform surgery.

You can definitely find comfort in using toe straighteners to change the structure of your toes and prevent them from hurting for good.

What types of toe straighteners are best for crooked toes?

There are many options available for you when attempting to fix this problem. Check out some of the most popular ones on the market:

For one crooked, big toe.

A Bunion Splint Corrector helps you find relief for your big toe pain.

The splint works to correct the toe crookedness over time.

For many crooked toes.

A pair of toe separators would work well in this situation.

You can put these on like socks and keep them on overnight. These tend to be a little bit more comfortable as they keep your entire foot in line without a splint.

For hammer toes.

These types of toe straighteners work to correct claw overlapping toes.

These crooked toes can be corrected individually with this splint. It helps to gently separate and align crooked toes and can be a great option for you if you need effective toe straighteners.

These types are also interchangeable between the right or left foot.

What are the benefits of toe straighteners?

When used properly over a recommended period of time, toe straighteners can significantly reduce the appearance and pain experienced with crooked toes.

Here are some of their best benefits:

  • Flexibility – They can be used on anyone because of their adaptability.
  • Affordability – They are very inexpensive, which makes them easier to buy for anyone.
  • Recyclable – They can be reused a number of times. If you experience symptoms, simply just continue to reuse until they cease.
  • Non-Invasive – They are safe to use because they do not require any surgery.

All toe straighteners work differently so be sure to choose one that works best for you. Amazon has a few options to choose from that would work well for anyone dealing with crooked toes.

Treating your toes’ misalignment no longer has to feel like a daunting experience. You can now treat your condition with safe and effective home treatments such as using toe straighteners. They were designed to give you results without the need for costly and dangerous surgery.

They are a nice alternative for you if you are looking to cure their conditions on your own. Toe straighteners can help you take your life back and expose your feet without feeling embarrassed or discomfort.

In summary, it’s important to understand and embrace the genetic structure of our feet as mother nature intended, and work on going back to basics.

Wear the right shoes, give your walking apparatus the treatment they deserve, and get off on the right foot in correcting your toes.


Q: How easy is it to use the accessory?

A: Generally, the top products will be very easy to use. They will have a simple and basic design, which lies flat on the skin for maximum effect. It will also have good flexibility to work around contours and will also maintain a firm grip with the foot. To help you in use, you’ll discover simple instructions inside the pack. You should, however, note that the user-friendliness of a product varies widely.

Q: Which are the best bunion correctors?

A: there is quite a number of good products in the market. They will deliver good results, work relatively, fast, and are also ergonomically designed. When looking for the best, you need to look at the safety of the materials and engineering. It shouldn’t have any toxic compounds and also should not cause any irritation, side effects, or allergic reactions. Besides, the top picks will receive approval from podiatrists, doctors, and other professionals.

Q: Is the product safe?

A: Top products from reputable brands are very safe. They have a nice design and texture which won’t, irritate, or feel too harsh or rough on the skin. It also will be non-toxic and made from medical-grade materials. In addition, it will enjoy positive comments from consumers, experts, and medical fraternity.


After going through the best bunion correctors reviews, you’ll have an easier time picking the right product. It will provide relief from pain, discomfort, and sensitivity caused by bunions and related conditions. Moreover, the featured items come in a user-friendly design that is very easy to use. They are very flexible and will work well on different feet. They are made from safe and hygienic material, and most consist of medical grade and high premium materials. This offers you more assurance in terms of effectiveness, reliability, and safety. And since they come from credible brands and enjoy podiatrist backing, you are sure they will work. Using the best bunion corrector’s reviews as a guide will make eliminating the bunions easier.

Old Version: Version 1 – Best Bunion Correctors

Old Version: Version 1 – Best Bunion Correctors

A bunion is a swelling on the joint of the big toe, and it is a standard issue with athletes and sportspersons. In fact, a lot of people grow it at a later stage of their life and bunion surgery is a way out. But it is expensive and not the only way out as you can use a bunion corrector heal naturally. The best bunion correctors can also prevent bunion issues if you put it on especially if you are an athlete and prone to a bunion. It can provide instant relief to the pain arising from a bunion and keep the toes separated.

Moreover, the toes will take the natural alignment slowly and steadily. It can also prevent furthermore damage and even orthopedists recommend a bunion corrector kit to their patients before asking them to go for surgery and even after the surgery. Therefore, we have handpicked the best bunion correctors that are versatile and highly effective.

#10. TENMAND Adjustable Pneumatic Bunion Splints


The bunion corrector is useful in the effective treatment of the Hallux Valgus, bunion, hammer toe, splint aid treatment and much more. It is applicable for men, women and even kids. It is a combination of adjustable bunion splints, toe straightener, and bunion corrector. The product is made in the USA, and one can rely on its quality even before trying it out. It is a unique bunion corrector where you can increase the air pressure to get the required effective correction. It is because the reduction in air pressure can prevent the blood flow to the toes.

The product is due to its facility to change the air pressure, you can use it at any stage of bunion issues. There are two effective steel braces with which you can provide constant gentle pressure and even adjust the direction of the big toe. The treatment will be more effective even though it is manual. The best part is that it has premium-quality fabric and it is flexible for people of all sizes thanks to the lengthy Velcro available. Besides, the product is washable and reusable for greater durability.

#9. Bunion Corrector, Toe Separator, Bunion Relief Protectors

By – Pnrskter

This is a highly durable and stretchable bunion corrector, and it is soft and has medical-grade gel. It is exceptionally comfortable and safe to use, and you can get rid of bunion problems without going into surgical issues. The product comes with infused vitamins, and it releases mineral oil that keeps the skin moisturized. It is latex-free, and hence, it is suitable for all those having sensitive skin. The product is favorite for providing instant relief. In the package, you will get 3 pairs of gel toe separator and 18-months guarantee.

Besides, it is highly effective for hammer toe, corns, reducing frictions between toes, and protecting sensitive areas. The gel toe separator keeps the space dry and prevents bacterial and fungus growth. It is due to the stretchable feature that it fits everyone. Even the doctors recommend the product to athletes, rehab patients, yoga practitioner and various others with bunion problems. You can save yourself a lot of money in curing naturally rather than going to surgery. Whether it is an alignment problem, overlapping problem, for strain feet issues, you can eliminate all problems including forefoot pain comfortably.

#8. Dr. Feel Good Feet 10 Piece Bunion Corrector and Bunion Relief

By – Dr. Feel Good Feet

This is a collection of 10 pieces of bunion corrector and relief provider. There are 5 different ways to relieve the pain and get things in proper shape. The best part is that you can put it on with your shoes and therefore, you can move around naturally. It is super hygienic as it prevents bacterial and fungal growth. The super comfortable silicone bunion pad option is the most ergonomic for human feet. The product has been developed by the professionals with suggestions for the orthopedists.

In the package, you will find bunion spreader, big toe separator, metatarsal pads, toe stretcher, and separator all of which are suitable for various orthopedic bunion treatments. It is one of the best bunion correctors on the list that can provide better results in a limited time period.

#7. Orthopedic Bunion Corrector Relief And Protector Splint Sleeve

By – Conicare

This is a kit of 8 pieces of bunion correctors, and it is useful for providing instant relief to pain. However, it slowly and steadily realigns the toes in their natural position. If you already have bunion issues, it is always better to opt for a complete kit. There is an eBook available with the product that will help to understand the scientific use of the product to cure your bunion problem faster. You are going to get the best result if you can follow the instructions rigorously.

The corrector has a premium-quality material and it is useful against Hallux Valgus, big toe joint, hammer toe, turf toe, and various such bunion-related issues. Moreover, it is highly comfortable to wear and you can put it on with your socks on. Besides, it uses silicone spacers which are soft and you can even put on shoes with it. You can wear it anytime and all the time for better results.

#6. PediGoo Bunion Corrector Bunion Relief Kit

By – PediGoo

Rather than buying individual items, it is always better to opt for a bunion corrector kit that contains all the essential and useful pieces to get relief from the pain. This one prevents bunion issues and also helps to recover from it. It includes an integrated aluminum brace to apply gentle pressure on the big toe to realign it and prevent the formation of a bunion. It is highly effective in relieving the discomfort and pain caused by bunions and crooked toes. Moreover, it will reduce pressure and inflammation for complete pain relief.

The product is lightweight and highly breathable, and the splint had terry cloth material which you can put for day and night. There is a secure elastic strap which makes sure that the splint does not slip and you can easily wear it with socks and most of the shoes. Moreover, it is fully adjustable, and it is going to fit everyone comfortably. The 60-day unconditional guarantee helps the buyers to try it out, and if not satisfied, they can return it. Besides, it is breathable and eases discomfort quicker.

#5. 5Pcs Bunion Corrector Adjustable Bunion Splint

By – H-Brotaco

This is a set of 5 pieces of bunion correctors. It includes a soft gel for bunion relief, a bunion corrector, bunion protector brace kit and bunion pads and toe straightener as well as toe separators. The size of these different pieces will fit everyone including kids. You can get relief from your bunion pain, treat your bunion, reduce the friction between toes and separate, straighten and align the toes. It is one of the best bunion correctors, and it is made up of stretchable material for universal fit.

Moreover, the soft gel available is of medical-grade and therefore, it is soft for comfort. Besides, one can easily clean it any time they feel like and reuse it over and over again for a lifetime. There is a 30-day guarantee and it is highly affordable. In fact, sportspersons should wear it to prevent bunion issues from happening. It is probably the best adjustable bunion corrector set on the list.

#4. Bunion Splints – Bunions Toe Straightener

By – Foots Love

This is another complete kit containing bunion toe straightener to prevent overlapping toes and straightener pad for comforting significant toe pain. The quality of the pieces is top-notch, and that is why the company is offering a lifetime warranty on the product. The product is popular for giving instant pain relief results, and it can also prevent surgical treatment. In fact, in less than 30 days, you can get rid of bunion issues naturally. It is a value for money product to purchase.

The package includes 12 bunion padding and toe straighteners, 2 standard shield spacers, standard toe spacers, gel toe separators, toe separators and sport shield spacers. You can use to product to prevent your feet from slowing down your performance. It is also applicable for kids. Moreover, it is a USA product and hence, you can trust its quality. It is one of the favorite products of orthopedists and it is anti-bacterial, odor free, and super durable.

#3. FanProd Bunion Corrector

By – FanProd

This bunion corrector is responsible for restoring the natural alignment of the toes. This helps when you want to avoid surgery, or this is what physicians recommended even after the surgery. When the toes are back in their natural alignment, you will get relieved of the pain. In fact, when you put on the bunion splint, the pain will disappear faster. It is highly useful for sportspersons like footballers who suffer from foot injury quite often. Besides, it is suitable for people with arthritis, calluses, hallux rigidus, hammer toe and likewise.

The best part is that it is adjustable to have a comfortable fit and it is going to fit all sizes and men, women, and even kids can put it on. There is a 15-day unconditional guarantee on the product. It is effective is the treatment of mild to moderate bunions. It is also capable of preventing bunion formation or getting worse. Besides, the product is a combination of a soft brace and a hard splint.

#2. Bunion Corrector & Bunion Relief Protector Sleeves Kit

By – Flyen

The bunion corrector kit comes with 7 different pieces for bunion correction and pain relief. The size is universal and will fit everyone comfortably. Different pieces have different functionalities. Some of them will reduce the friction between toes, fingers, fingers and shoes and likewise. Besides, some are for treatment of your bunion naturally without going into surgery. Most important, the pain in areas like big toe joint and also can be relieved quickly.

The product has medical-grade silicone and it has premium-quality material construction. Besides, it is highly soft and stretchable. You can easily clean and reuse the pieces. Moreover, the company offers a full money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with the product. It is one of the most complete and best bunion correctors to buy for those who need it badly.

#1. ZenToes Pack of 4 Toe Separators and Spreaders For Bunion

By – ZenToes

According to our opinion, this is currently the best bunion corrector that can relieve you of the pain in your bunions and overlapping toes. Therefore, you do not have to opt for surgery as the separation will happen naturally with its constant use. It is soft and comes in the form of a gel, and this toe separator gently realigns the big toe. You can walk or stand for a longer duration more comfortable with its use. Moreover, the gel in the product is of medical-grade, and it is latex free. Besides, it is reusable and suitable for people with allergic skin type.

The product is recommended even by the podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons for before and after surgery use for proper and natural bunion treatment. Besides, it has a universal fit, and it works on the principle of stretching the underlying tissue to reduce pain and ache. There will no more be any rubbing from your shoes as well. It can prevent cramped toes and is perfect for both men and women. Besides, the product has 3-quality checks and tested materials.

If you already have a bunion, you should buy a kit as it contains multiple pieces to provide complete protection and curing solution. However, if you still do not have a bunion but your activities like playing football makes you prone to a bunion, you should but individual pieces to keep your toes separated and in the natural alignment. It is important to compare the products to understand the content of the kits so that you can buy the best ones to solve your requirements. You can also consult an orthopedist to understand the pieces you need. All the above best bunion correctors have medical-grade quality and highly effective in producing a better result in a short time.

What You Can Do About Hammertoes

If you’re wondering what you can do about your painful bent toes — a foot condition known as hammertoe — you can start by treating your feet right. Treatment to reduce the pain of a hammertoe can begin at home, but to really fix the problem, you may need to see a podiatrist.

Hammertoes: How They Form

A hammertoe is a misshapen second, third, or fourth toe. The toe bends up at the middle joint. The toe becomes a hammertoe because a muscle in the toe isn’t working properly or is too weak, increasing pressure on the tendons and the toe joints. Muscles normally work in twos to bend and straighten toes. If the toe stays bent too long, a hammertoe develops.

Ill-fitting shoes, arthritis, heredity, even an injury, can cause the hammertoe to form. To add insult to injury, corns and calluses are common on top of hammertoes because the toe is rubbing against the shoe.

Hammertoes: Relieving the Pain

To keep your hammertoes more comfortable, start by replacing your tight, narrow, pointy shoes with those that have plenty of room in the toes. Skip the high heels in favor of low-heeled shoes to take the pressure off your toes.

You should have at least one-half inch between your longest toe and the tip of your shoe. If you don’t want to go out and buy new shoes, see if your local shoe repair shop can stretch your shoes to make the toe area more accommodating to your hammertoe.

Hammertoes: Prevention

To prevent a hammertoe, never squeeze your toes into shoes that force them to bend unnaturally. Those tendons can tighten up, and leave a permanent, claw-like bend in your toe. Always slip your feet into soft, roomy shoes that easily accommodate all of your toes.

Stretching your toes can also help keep the tendons in the toes relaxed, and prevent a hammertoe. Use your hands to gently straighten and stretch your toes or try to pick up objects with your toes — grabbing something from the floor, for example. Sitting on a blanket and using your toes to grab the ends with also relax your feet.

Hammertoes: Seeing a Podiatrist

While these home-based pain-relieving measures can help your toe to feel better, you may need to see a podiatrist to fix the problem.

“Surgical intervention is required to correct the deformity,” says Timothy C. Ford, DPM, director of the podiatric residency program at Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s HealthCare in Louisville, Ky. He recommends seeing a podiatrist to determine the cause of the hammertoe, which can help determine the appropriate treatment.

A visit to a podiatrist can make sure that you’re not damaging the skin on your toe, leading to a possible infection. “If it’s severe enough, you can develop ulceration or a breakdown of the skin overlying the contractive joint,” says Alan K. Mauser, DPM, a podiatrist in Louisville, Ky.

Dr. Mauser stresses that having surgery on a hammertoe is a quality-of-life issue. You can have surgery to straighten out the toe or to remove a section of bone. In more severe cases, the surgery could be more complex than just bone removal.

Spotting a hammertoe early, relieving pain, and if necessary, seeing a podiatrist can help keep treatment simple.


Published: December, 2014

The smallest four toes of each foot have three bony segments connected by two joints. Hammertoe is a deformity in which one or more of the small toes develops a bend at the joint between the first and second segments. The tip of the toe turns downward, making it look like a hammer or claw. The second toe is the one most often affected.

Hammertoe may be more likely to occur when the second toe is longer than the first toe or when the arch of the foot is flat.

Most hammertoes are caused by wearing ill-fitting, tight or high-heeled shoes over a long period of time. Shoes that don’t fit well can crowd the toes, putting pressure on the middle toes and causing them to curl downward. Other causes include:

  • genes. Some people are born with hammertoe
  • bunions. These knobby bumps sometimes develop at the side of the big toe. This can make the big toe bend toward the other toes. The big toe can then overlap and crowd the smaller toes.
  • arthritis. Arthritis in a toe joint can lead to hammertoe.

If the toes remain in the hammertoe position for long periods, the tendons on the top of the foot will tighten over time because they are not stretched to their full length. Eventually, the tendons shorten enough that the toe stays bent, even when shoes are not being worn.


The symptoms of hammertoe include:

  • a curling toe
  • pain or discomfort in the toes and ball of the foot or the front of the leg, especially when toes are stretched downward
  • thickening of the skin above or below the affected toe with the formation of corns or calluses
  • difficulty finding shoes that fit well

In its early stages, hammertoe is not obvious. Frequently, hammertoe does not cause any symptoms except for the claw-like toe shape.


Most health care professionals can diagnose hammertoe simply by examining your toes and feet. X-rays of the feet are not needed to diagnose hammertoe, but they may be useful to look for signs of some types of arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis) or other disorders that can cause hammertoe.

If the deformed toe is very painful, your doctor may recommend that you have a fluid sample withdrawn from the joint with a needle so the fluid can be checked for signs of infection or gout (arthritis from crystal deposits).

Hammertoe can usually be prevented by wearing shoes that fit properly and give the toes plenty of room.

  • Don’t wear shoes with pointed or narrow toes.
  • Don’t wear shoes that are too tight or short.
  • Don’t wear high-heeled shoes, which can force the toes forward.
  • Choose shoes with wide or boxy toes.
  • Choose shoes that are a half-inch longer than your longest toe.
  • If shoes hurt, don’t wear them.


Treating hammertoe involves straightening the toe, making tendons in the toes flexible again, and preventing the problem from returning. Some simple treatments include:

  • Soaking your feet every day in warm water, then stretching your toes and ankles by pointing your toes.
  • Using over-the-counter pads, cushions or straps to decrease discomfort.
  • Splinting the toe to keep it straight and to stretch the tendons of the foot
  • Exercising the toes to relax the foot tendons (a session with a physical therapist may help you get started with foot exercises). One simple exercise is to place a small towel on the floor and then pick it up using only your toes. You also can grasp at carpet with your toes or curl your toes up and down repeatedly.
  • Wearing shoes that fit properly and give toes plenty of room to stretch out

In advanced cases in which the toe has become stiff and permanently bent, the toe can be straightened with surgery. One type of surgery involves removing a small section of the toe bone to allow the toe to lie flat.

Surgery for hammertoe usually is classified as a cosmetic procedure. Cosmetic foot surgeries sometimes cause complications such as pain or numbness, so it’s better to treat the problem with a shoe that fits properly.

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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