A hammer toe is a toe deformity that is characterized by a permanent bend in one or both toe joints, a position that resembles a hammer from the side. It is most common in the second, third or fourth toes.

The condition occurs when toe muscles are tightened and constricted over time without the ability to stretch out. Most cases of hammer toe result from wearing tight shoes that force the toe(s) into a bent position for too long.

Individuals with hammer toes experience these symptoms:

  • Pain and irritation in the second, third or fourth toes
  • Pain at the tops or tips of the toes or in the ball of the foot
  • Swelling, inflammation or redness
  • Pain that worsens when wearing shoes or with increased activity
  • Curled toes that persist even when barefoot
  • Calluses or corns on the tops of the affected toes

Hammer toes usually start out as mild deformities and get progressively worse over time. In the early stages, hammer toes are flexible and the symptoms can often be managed with non-surgical treatment. If left untreated, the toes can become rigid and corns and open sores may form.

It is important to seek treatment for hammer toe from the foot and ankle specialists at Lancaster Orthopedic Group sooner rather than later while the toe is still flexible. Treatment options include altering your footwear, padding the corns and calluses that form, trimming the corns and calluses, using custom orthotic footwear or devices, taking anti-inflammatory medications and splinting the affected toe. Surgery may be recommended in severe cases.