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Hammertoe Deformity

A hammertoe develops when a joint in a toe contracts, causing a bend in the toe that does not straighten back out. This is a result of abnormal alignment and/or pulling of tendons that control the motion of the toe.

Depending upon the level of joint contracture, the contracted digit may be referred to as a mallet toe, claw toe, or traditional hammertoe. Your podiatrist can discuss your specific toe deformity with you.

A hammertoe is a structural deformity and can progress and worsen over time. The skin over the joint that is contracted may become red and inflamed due to rubbing inside of shoes. Callus lesions may develop over prominent joints and, in extreme cases, the skin may actually break down causing a hole to develop, which is known as an ulcer.

There are ways in which a hammertoe can be managed and made more comfortable in shoes. These include:

  • Digital splints
  • Padding
  • Wearing open toed shoes
  • Wearing shoes with a deeper toe box

Additionally, custom orthotics may be helpful to control movements of the foot that may contribute to worsening of the deformity over time. However, they will not correct the deformity that is already present.

If conservative care fails to alleviate the pain, then surgery to straighten the toe may be pursued. This is an outpatient surgical procedure which takes 30 minutes or less to complete. Ask your podiatrist about your surgical options as well as the necessary recovery.

If you would like to watch a video on hammertoe surgery, please follow this link:

“Hammertoe surgery explained, Podiatry claw toe, mallet toe…” DrGlass DPM

(Please note that this video depicts placement of a pin in the toe. This is not always necessary, and depends on the severity of the deformity.)

If you would like to watch a video on hammertoe surgery with fusion of the toe joint with an implant, please follow this link:

“2nd PIPJ Arthrodesis with Smart Toe Implant from MMI” Patrick DeHeer

(This video includes live operative footage and may be disturbing to some audiences.)