The Cause (and woes) of Hammertoes

Many Americans are afflicted by some sort of foot pain. Some are just aches in the muscles while others are far more serious. One injury that is becoming increasingly more common is a condition known as hammertoes.

Hammertoes are an unnatural bend in the toe bone, typically in the smaller toes on the foot. It can be worsened by your choice in footwear, time, and repeated exposure to stimuli such as rubbing or bumping. Minor hammertoes are generally not painful, but get very painful as they worsen. Many people develop hammertoes, but few cases end up being incredibly significant. There are many causes of hammertoes, but here is a look at a few of the most common culprits.

Muscle Imbalance

The most common cause of hammertoes is an unevenness of muscles and tendons. Without the correct forces working to keep the bone straight, the foot’s movements can cause the bone to bow. Once the bend is there, it will continue to worsen, even by doing something as simple as wearing shoes that don’t perfectly fit.


Hammertoes are also known to be caused by trauma to the foot. Injuries such as breaks and stubs are perfect examples of potential injuries that lead to hammertoes. I’m sure all of us have felt like our toe was bent after stubbing it against a wall or foot of the bed. Though it seems to last forever, most of us recover from such pain quickly. Thinking of the last time you stubbed your toe should help paint the picture of how a hammertoe is developed following that incident.


Style and fashion are discussed in great depth by many around the world. Unfortunately, many people are also unaware that their stylish shoes are also causing foot deformities. Tight and restrictive footwear can cause the toe to repeatedly bend and eventually remain that way, even once shoes are removed. High heels are a big culprit in this arena.


There is probably at least one thing your parents passed down to you that you are grateful for; you could be grateful for your mom’s smile, your dad’s sense of humor, or any number of other things. There are other things that you are clearly not grateful to have received from your parents, and hammertoes would definitely fall into that category.

Treatment of Hammertoes

Luckily, hammertoes are common enough that treatments are readily available. As with many medical problems, the earlier you can catch it then easier it is to treat.

  • When identified early, the treatments can be as simple as changing the shoes you wear to a less restrictive fit or size. You might also be given a splint to help keep the toe straight.
  • For hammertoes that are at an advanced stage, there is likely need for an operation. The severity of the hammertoe dictates the aggressiveness of the operation. Some patients have a minor operation and are able to walk out. Others require more in-depth attention and surgery.

If your toes are currently healthy, you can do your best to keep it that way by wearing practical, well-fitting shoes, performing simple foot exercises, or seeking medical opinion. If you think you may have hammertoes, seek medical counsel. An X-Ray can easily confirm or dispel your concerns. Getting the attention you need will get you back on your feet in no time.

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