Hammer Toe


What Is a Hammer Toe?

Hammer toe is a condition where the second, third or fourth toe is bent in the middle, giving it a hammer shape. Imbalance in connective tissues within the toe is what causes hammer toe, and wearing shoes that don’t fit can make it worse.

In early stages, treatment for hammer toe includes special exercises and footwear to correct the deformity. Left untreated, hammer toe may require surgery to repair.

At Aurora Health Care, we offer a variety of noninvasive and surgical treatment options to correct hammer toe and get you back on your feet.

The Aurora Difference

Advanced Treatment for Hammer Toe

Aurora is one of the largest regional health care providers in Wisconsin, treating thousands of people for foot conditions each year – including hammer toe. When you come to us for treatment, you can count on:

  • Highly skilled teams: We have orthopedic and podiatric experts who specialize in treating foot and ankle conditions. Our team has deep expertise in treating foot problems with noninvasive or minimally invasive procedures.
  • Care that’s right for you: Orthopedists, podiatrists, primary care doctors and physical therapy specialists work together on your care to find the best treatment possible. And whenever possible, we’ll find ways to help you avoid surgery.
  • Easy access: Our convenient locations across eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois make it easy to get treatment close to home, work or school.

Symptoms & Causes

Signs of Hammer Toe

The main symptom of hammer toe is an abnormal bend or deformity in the middle joint of the toe. Other signs include foot or toe pain, as well as calluses or corns on the toe.

Causes of hammer toe typically include a combination of:

  • Muscle imbalance: Pairs of muscles control toe movement. When a toe stays bent for a long period, the muscles get tight and cannot straighten out.
  • Footwear: Shoes that are too narrow compress the toes and cause them to become bent and sometimes overlap each other.
  • Injury: An injury – like jamming or fracturing your toe – can increase your chances of developing hammer toe.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Comprehensive Hammer Toe Treatment

Our doctors can diagnose hammer toe with a medical exam, evaluating your toes for pain and deformity. They may also use X-rays to get images of the bones and joints inside your feet.

Treatment for hammer toe typically focuses on noninvasive methods first. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Wearing comfortable, low-heeled shoes with more room in the toe box
  • Using orthotics, which are special shoe inserts customized to your feet
  • Doing toe exercises like stretching, picking up items from the floor using your toes or scrunching a towel with them
  • Using straps or cushions to help straighten the toes and relieve symptoms

If noninvasive treatments don’t work, your doctor may recommend toe surgery to correct hammer toe. Learn more about treatments for foot and ankle pain at Aurora.

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