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Definition Return to top
Hammer toe is a deformity of the toe, in which the end of the toe is bent downward.
Causes Return to top
Hammer toe usually affects the second toe, although it may also affect the other toes. The toe goes into a claw-like position. The condition may occur as a result of pressure from a bunion. A corn on the top of a toe and a callus on the sole of the foot develop, which makes walking painful.
The condition may be present at birth (congenital) or develop from wearing short, narrow shoes. Hammer toe also occurs in children who continue to wear shoes they have outgrown.
The rare case in which all toes seem to be involved may indicate a problem with the nerves or spinal cord.
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
A physical examination of the foot confirms hammer toe.
Treatment Return to top
Mild hammer toe in children can be treated with foot manipulation and splinting the affected toe. Wear the right size shoes or shoes with wide toe boxes for comfort and to avoid aggravating hammer toes.
Protect the protruding joint with corn pads or felt pads, corrective footwear, or other foot devices. Exercises may be helpful.
Severe hammer toe requires an operation to straighten the joint. The surgery may involve cutting or moving tendons, or fusing the joints of the toe together.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
If the condition is treated early, you can often avoid surgery. Treatment will reduce pain and walking difficulty.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
If you have hammer toe, call for an appointment with your health care provider for instructions on the best treatment.
Also call for an appointment if your pain gets worse or you have difficulty walking.
Prevention Return to top
Avoid wearing shoes that are too short or narrow. Check children's shoe sizes frequently, especially during periods of fast growth.
References Return to top
Badlissi F, Dunn JE, Link CL, Keysor JJ, McKinlay JB, Felson DT. Foot musculoskeletal disorders, pain, and foot-related functional limitation in older persons. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005;53:1029-1033.Update Date: 7/17/2008 Updated by: Andrew L. Chen, MD, MS, Orthopedist, The Alpine Clinic, Littleton, NH. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.