Why do I have a hammer toe?

Hammer toes are a leading cause of pain in the foot. The pain from hammertoe is caused by friction against the shoe.

Hammer toe is characterized by a permanently bent interphalangeal joint. This curvature causes the toe to resemble the shape of a hammer. Shoe pressure caused by hammer toe leads to callus formation or inflammation on top of the bent joint; causing pain.


What are the reasons for the formation of a hammer toe?

Toes and their corresponding joints are stabilized and held in position by the small muscles located in the forefoot. With aging, the muscles of the foot lose their strength and coordination, causing changes of the toe position and malformation of the toes. Frequently, a hammer toe occurs in conjunction with a hallux valgus deformity, or bunion. In the presence of a hallux valgus deformity, the first toe (the big toe) “slants over” and closes in on the second toe, leaving no space for the latter and causing it to “pop up,” losing its balance and form.

Another cause of hammertoe is the weakening of the joint capsule of the metatarsophalangeal joints, or the joints that run between the toes and mid-foot bone. With age, but sometimes also after an injury, tears of the joint capsule on the ball of the foot develop, which has two major effects:

  1. instability of the metatarsophalangeal joints; and
  2. an imbalance of the muscles of the toes. Further, tears of the joint capsule are by themselves painful and uncomfortable, and which add to the discomfort of a hammer toe.

Conservative Treatment of Hammertoe

In the early stages of a hammer toe, physiotherapy and professional insoles help. 


Surgical Treatment of Hammertoe

In case of severe deformities, surgery which is performed under local anaesthesia is advisable. If an additional hallux valgus deformity is present, it can be corrected during the same operation.

What about being born with a hammer toe?

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