by EBSCO Medical Review Board


A hammer toe is a toe that stays bent at the middle joint. A flexible hammer toe can be straightened by hand. A rigid hammer toe cannot.

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It is caused by an imbalance in the ligaments and muscle stabilizers of the toe.

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in older adults. Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:


Problems may be:

  • A toe that is bent at the middle joint
  • Pain in the toe that is worse when moving it
  • Pain where the toe meets the foot
  • Blisters, corns, or calluses on top of the middle joint of the toe


You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. An exam of the toe will be done. This is enough to make the diagnosis.

Images may be taken if the diagnosis is not certain. This can be done with an x-ray.


The goal of treatment is to ease pressure on the toe. Choices are:

  • Wearing shoes with roomy toe boxes
  • Splinting the toe
  • Padding the toe
  • Using shoe inserts

Some people with severe hammer toe may need surgery. Choices are:

  • Cutting or transferring tendons
  • Fusing the middle joint of the toe together
  • Removing part of the toe or joint


Hammer toe may be prevented by:

  • Not wearing shoes that are narrow or do not fit well
  • Not wearing heels that are higher than 2 inches
  • Wearing shoes with a wide toe box


American Podiatric Medical Association 

OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 


Canadian Orthopaedic Association 

Health Canada 


DiPreta JA. Metatarsalgia, lesser toe deformities, and associated disorders of the forefoot. Med Clin North Am. 2014 Mar;98(2):233-251.

Hammer toe. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated March 30, 2015. Accessed May 7, 2020.

Hammertoe. Foot Health Facts—American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons website. Available at: Accessed May 7, 2020.

Hammer toe. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: Updated September 2012. Accessed May 7, 2020.

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