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What are they?

Hammertoe describes one shape the toe may take when the joints are contracted and deformed. Other shapes of deformed toes are described as claw toes and mallet toes.


A hammer toe is the result of a muscle and tendon imbalance. This causes the joint at the end of the toe to bend down, while the toe joint closer to the foot bends up. The term 'clawtoe' will frequently be used interchangeably with 'hammer toe'. The joints may stiffen permanently in this position. Painful corns and calluses often form when the hooked toes rub on shoes. Hammer toes can be caused by the spreading of the forefoot, heredity, a nerve abnormality, improper shoe fit, e.g. shoes with high heels and narrow pointed toe boxes) or due to pressure from a bunion.

A corn is the thickened skin that forms where the shoe rubs on the toe. A hard corn forms where the skin is dry and a soft corn forms where it is moist, as between the toes. Corns may eventually lose their ability to protect the toe and break down, forming skin ulcers. This leads to infection.


To eliminate pressure and pain on the toes, the shoes should have a deep toe box that is shaped like the toes and made from a soft material. The heel should be low. Sandals or running shoes are the best, but even dress shoes can be found that meet these requirements. If you cannot find these shoes at a regular shoe store, a specialty shoe store will have them.

Cushion pressure spots with adhesive donut-shaped pads (corn pads) may be helpful. These can be purchased from any Chemist shop. Shoe leather can be relaxed over the hammer toe to relieve pressure. Corns which become too large can be shaved down.

Surgery can correct the deformity. The type of surgery depends upon the degree of flexibility of the toe and joints involved. This surgery can be done as a day surgery procedure.

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