Hammertoe is a foot condition that curls a toe downward instead of straight forward. This abnormal malformation can be scary to encounter, and physically unpleasant to live with. The good news is that it is fairly preventable and, if properly treated, doesn’t have to be permanent.

Most commonly, the second or third toe is affected, but this condition can happen to any toe. Hammertoe usually starts as a mild deformity but, if left untreated, it can become extremely painful and lead to further foot problems. In more serious cases, surgery is often needed to relieve the discomfort.

So what happens to your body to make your foot take on this unnatural shape? Hammertoe affects the joint in the middle of the toe and occurs when toe muscles become out of sync with one another. Oppositely, in a healthy foot toe muscles work together in order for the joint to properly function.

Picture of a Hammer Toe

What to do if you have hammertoe?

First and foremost, it is important to see a podiatrist or a medical professional. He or she will undoubtedly recommend that you reconsider your choice in footwear. Switch to models that have roomier fronts and feature more depth to prevent pinching or rubbing; brands like Vionic/Orthaheel and Klogs grant you plenty of room without sacrificing feminine styles. Also talk to your doctor about recommended inserts for your shoes.

It may also be advocated that you do strengthening exercises, like holding small items between your toes. It is also not completely unheard of to receive surgery. Fortunately, if you take the right corrective measures hammertoe should go away.

Popular Relief Products

Orthotic Shop carries a number of premium products that help manage the pain and discomfort from hammertoe:

  • SmartToes Toe Straightener:  This toe straightener can be worn around the clock and is designed to straighten and increase the flexibility of your toes.
  • Silipos Digital Pads: A pack of 12, these pads help alleviates toe joint pain that stems from hammertoe. Can be worn 24/7.
  • Toe Alignment Splint: A toe alignment splint is needed if surgery was performed to treat a hammertoe. This product will keep your toe straight and, with the proper administration, prevent the condition from occurring again.

The following are the three main causes of hammertoe:

  • Toe injury from shoes that don’t fit:  The most common cause of hammertoe is wearing shoes that do not fit properly. When footwear is too tight, it pushes against the toe and causes an imbalance between the toe muscles. A common culprit is stiletto shoes with narrow, pointed fronts.
  • Genes: An inherited foot condition such as flat feet or high arches can lead to muscle instability; the foot muscles will try to compensate for the discrepancy and hammertoe will develop. Further, when hammertoe is hereditary, it usually worsens with age.
  • Arthritis: If arthritis is present in a toe joint, it can lead to a muscle imbalance and, thusly, hammertoe.
  • Relation of toes to one another. While some people’s big toe is the longest, individuals whose second one extends pass the first are more likely to experience hammertoe.


Listed below are some of the most common hammertoe symptoms:

  • Pain on the top of a toe, especially when putting on a shoe.
  • The development of corns on top of a toe.
  • Swelling around the afflicted joint, as well as pain with bending.
  • Aching on the ball of foot under a swollen toe joint.