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The hammer toe: what is it exactly?

The hammer toe: what is it exactly?

This deformity of the toe mainly affects women and is also called mallet toe. It is characterized by the contraction of the toe joints, which is most often caused by a muscle imbalance in the foot.

The hallux valgus (commonly called bunion), certain pathologies and inflammatory diseases can be at the source of this problem of the foot also. The curvature gives the impression of an inverted V. The 2nd and 5th toes are often the most affected, but all toes are likely to be affected.

There are two types of hammer toes: soft hammer toes and rigid hammer toes. The two corresponding respectively to an early stage and an advanced stage of development. The imbalance at the origin of this condition can come from a trauma, a biomechanical disorder, a neurological or degenerative disorder of the joints or it can simply come from a hereditary problem.

Causes and risk factors

As we always say, prevention is better than the cure itself. Wearing shoes that are not too tight is the best way to avoid this condition. High heels that are more than 5 centimeters tall are prohibited. Go to a shoe store and take the exact measurement of your feet in length and width to find what type of shoes and what size you should wear.

There are several possible signs and symptoms that you should pay attention to. If you can not flex the toe that is affected, the situation is serious. If you suffer from calluses or if you have corns, the situation is less serious, but to watch anyway. If you have trouble walking or if your toe bends down, you should also be careful.

Possible Treatments for Hammer Toe

Ideally, you'd want to wear shoes adapted and large enough to prevent your toe from rubbing the top of the shoe permanently. This is recommended only to relieve discomfort but is by no means a long-term solution.

To solve the problem once and for all, you will need to visit a podiatrist who will take a closer look at the mechanical function of the foot in order to prescribe adequate orthotics. It is also possible to opt for digital orthoses to protect the pressure points. These arthroplasties can also be very effective and are all custom-made.

However, if the results are not enough to significantly alleviate the pain, it will be necessary to think about surgery (called arthrodesis), which is the last resort to definitively remedy this problem. The surgical techniques are way better than before and you will not have to wear pins.


The severity of your condition will determine the remedy you should opt for. A light hammer toe can easily be corrected by wearing better-fitted shoes. Pads and insoles will also help.

Call our podiatric clinic today to learn more about the solutions and treatments available. You can dial 514.505.3977 directly or fill out the contact form on our website. Our team will be happy to answer your questions.


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