Diplomate, American Board of Podiatric Surgery

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Toe deformities are commonly caused by bunions, flatfeet or heredity factors. The toes are vital in correct walking or running. There are at least six sets of small muscles that control each toe. If there is an imbalance in the foot, these smaller muscles can be overpowered by larger lower leg muscles causing hammer toe development over time.


Hammertoes normally affect the second, third and fourth digits but can affect the outside of the fifth toe also. The toe becomes bent in a fixed position with a slow developing callus. Many times it causes pain from shoe rub and callus thickening. If the hammer toe is long standing it's not uncommon to also have pain on the ball of the foot with or without a callus under the painful toe.


Treatments for hammer toes depends on the severity. When it first starts we can use an orthotic or a minor in office tendon release can give an excellent result.

Without early treatment the soft tissues and muscles become tighter and the deformity becomes rigid. If that occurs more involved surgery is required.

A minor surgical procedure can be done either in the office or outpatient. An incision is made on top of the toe and a small piece of bone is removed to straighten the toe. If the toe is rigid and doesn't bend then the same procedure is performed but we use an absorbable pin to keep it straight. Rarely is a removable metal pin necessary to hold the toe straight.

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