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Hammer toe: What is it, and how can it be avoided?

foot on sand shoe off

Hammer toe  is a foot condition where  the toe is bent upwards at the first joint. This is similar to claw or mallet toes. If untreated, the toe can become fixed in this position and can’t straighten out.  This can be quite uncomfortable, particularly in footwear where it can rub and limit shoe choices. .  The deformity once rigid can be treated with  corrective surgery, but good management early on can mean surgery is not required. If it has become fixed the are many strategies for limiting the effects on footwear and mobility without resorting to surgery. Our Podiatrist here at Paddington Physio and Podiatry, has a number of strategies to  help manage hammer toe and can assist you in avoiding this condition. Some tips are listed below.

What causes hammer toe?

Hammer toe is thought to develop (this is only 1 way it can form and not the sole reason. Others include poor balance, age, genetics, sport, diabetes/neurological conditions) when shoes which are too small, too short, or too narrow for the foot size. This leads to overcrowding where the middle joint of the toe is affected and the end part of the toe bends downwards.  It might be able to be moved, but if left untreated the toe will no longer be able to be flexed, and cause pain. The second toe is the toe most often affected in hammertoe.

Who is most likely to suffer from hammer toe?

Women are more likely to experience hammer toe than men, and this has been explained by the likelihood for women to wear shoes styles with limited space in the toe box, and/or high heels. Children can also easily develop hammer toe if they continue to wear shoes that their feet have outgrown.

What can be done to avoid the condition?

Wearing the right shoes is the single biggest step that can be taken to avoid developing hammer toe.  Having your feet measured properly at its widest point is important as well as choosing footwear with the right length. Your shoes should be at least half an inch longer than your longest toe, and no shoe should feel tight. Wearing shoes with pointed toes and heels should be minimised.


How can I treat hammertoe?

If one of more of your toes has an unnatural bend which cannot be easily straightened, it’s worthwhile to think about treatment, even if the condition is not yet causing any pain. Some home remedies include

  • toe caps (we sell these also) from the chemist may relive some discomfort from mild hammertoe
  • Gently moving or flexing your toe with your hands may help to stretch out affected toes. Try picking up tea towels or marbles with toes as an exercise
  • Buy new pairs of shoes that fit with padded and resilient soles.
  • Ice and pain relief medication can be used to reduce any swelling and pain caused by the condition.

If hammertoe is still causing concerns such as thickening skin on the top or the tips of the toesseek professional advice from your podiatrist here at Paddo Physio and Podiatry on what can be done to manage the problem. This can include protective devices, corn and callous management, footwear advice, and orthotic or padding options, as well as discussing the surgical options if needed. .


To book an appointment with our podiatrist today simply fill out our appointment form and we’ll get back to you very soon, or alternatively call us on (07) 3511  6352.