Hammer toe is a deformity of the second, third, fourth or fifth toes. In this condition, the toe is bent at the middle joint, causing it to be elevated and rubbed causing pain and inflammation. It resembles the shape of a hammer. Left untreated, hammer toes can become inflexible (non-movable) and require surgery. People with hammer toes may have corns or calluses on the top of the middle joint of the toe or on the tip of the toe. They may also feel pain in their toes or feet and have difficulty finding comfortable shoes.
The primary causes of a hammer toe include muscle imbalance, trauma (broken bones) and external factors (improperly fitting shoes).
Conservative treatment for this condition typically involves wearing shoes with soft, roomy toe boxes, padding of the toes (tube foam, gel caps, felt pads) and toe exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles. Commercially available straps, cushions, or non-medicated corn pads may also relieve symptoms.
In cases where the toe is painful and effects normal daily activities, hammertoe surgery may be required to correct the deformity. Surgery does not guarantee that the pain will go away.