Providing specialized orthopedic care at six convenient locations across Northeast Wisconsin. Click to find a location near you.
(920) 560-1000

Hammer Toe

A hammer toe is a deformity of the toes where the toe is bent at the middle joint so it resembles a hammer. Hammer toe happens to the second, third, or fourth toes, and when your board-certified OSI doctor diagnoses it in its early stages, it can be treated with simple measures. When left untreated, a hammer toe can become fixed and may require surgery to repair.

What causes Hammer Toe?

Contributing factors to developing a hammer toe include shoes that narrow toward the toe and push the smaller toes into a flexed position, or high heels that force the foot down and squish the toes against the shoe. Eventually, the toe muscles are unable to straighten even when there is no confining shoe.

How do you know you have Hammer Toe?

The most common sign of hammer toe is a visible bent toe, but others include:

  • Pain in the affected toes, especially when moving it or wearing shoes
  • Corns and calluses on top of the middle joint of the hammer toe
  • Swelling, redness, or a burning sensation
  • Inability to straighten the toe

How does OSI fix Hammer Toe?

An OSI foot and ankle specialist will examine you for signs and symptoms of hammer toe. Your board-certified OSI doctor will do one or more of the following to confirm diagnosis and help determine the best treatment to get you feeling better and active again:

  • Physical exam: Your doctor will perform a careful exam of your foot and assess the visible signs.
  • X-rays: An x-ray will determine the extent of the deformity.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Your Orthopedic and Sports Institute orthopedic surgeon will give you the best course of action and will recommend some, or all, of the following:

  • Wear shoes that are high and broad across the toes, making sure there is at least one-half inch of space between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe.
  • No heels higher than 2 inches
  • Appropriate shoes for the activity you are performing
  • Purchase and wear hammer toe pads that fit around the pointy top of the toe joint
  • Gently massage your toe and use ice to reduce swelling
  • Foot exercises to help restore muscle balance
  • Splinting the toe may help in the early stages

Surgical Treatment

If hammer toe is not resolved using nonsurgical methods, your board-certified orthopedic surgeon may suggest surgery. It is done as an outpatient surgery, and the type performed depends on the severity of the hammer toe. Your OSI doctor will walk you through the options to find the best solution for your specific case.