In this condition, the toe is bent at the middle joint, causing it (with some imagination) to resemble a hammer. Left untreated, hammertoes can become inflexible and require surgery. People with a hammertoe may have corns on the top of the middle joint of the toe or on the tip of the toe, or they may develop calluses on the ball of the foot. They frequently feel pain in their toes or feet and have difficulty finding comfortable shoes.

Depending on one’s tendency to form hammertoes, they can show up early or late in life. Also, they can show up as one toe, or multiple toes, on one or both feet.

The most common cause of hammertoes is a hereditary tendency and muscle imbalance. Sometimes hammertoes form as the result of other conditions that affect the feet such as diabetes.

Initial treatment for the condition typically involves selecting roomier shoes with a bigger toe box. Commercially available straps, cushions, or corn pads may also relieve symptoms.

Hammertoe deformity tends to be gradually progressive. In many cases, hammertoe surgery may be recommended to correct the deformity.