What Causes Hammertoes and What Are My Treatment Options?

Oct 04, 2022

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What Causes Hammertoes and What Are My Treatment Options?

Hammertoes get their name because the condition forces your joints to stay in an upward position, causing your toes to look like a hammer. While it’s easy to miss the earliest signs of hammertoes, as time goes on, the abnormality only gets worse. 

Over time, hammertoes can make it impossible to wear the shoes you love, and it can trigger other painful conditions, like corns. The good news is that the board-certified podiatrists at Salt Lake City Foot and Ankle Clinic in Holladay and West Jordan, Utah, specialize in helping people with hammertoes find relief. 

If you’re struggling with this common condition, you’re probably wondering why you have hammertoes and whether there’s anything you can do about them. Keep reading to find out. 

Why do I have hammertoes?

Your toes are tiny compared to the rest of your body, but they have 28 joints that connect your toe bones to your tendons, muscles, and ligaments. When the muscles in your toes get weak, these joints and structures in your feet experience more pressure.

The extra pressure pushes on your joints and can freeze them in an upward position. That makes your toes rise at the joint, causing hammertoes — the condition of your toes staying upright instead of lying flat. 

People develop hammertoes for different reasons. For example, getting older increases your risk of developing the condition. Other factors also increase your chances of getting the hammertoes, including:

  • Being female
  • Having a second toe that’s longer than your big toe
  • Having certain diseases, such as diabetes or arthritis
  • Undergoing trauma or injury to your toe
  • Having a family history of hammertoes

The shoes you wear can also increase your risk of this condition. For example, regularly wearing high heels or shoes with a narrow toe box make it more likely you’ll get hammertoes.

What are my treatment options for hammertoes?

There are treatments for hammertoes. However, the best thing you can do is work to prevent hammertoes from developing. 

You can’t do anything about your toe length or family history, but you can avoid wearing shoes that increase the risk of getting this painful condition. You can also take steps to avoid getting certain diseases, like type 2 diabetes and arthritis, by eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise. 

Once you have symptoms of hammertoes, it’s crucial to schedule a visit to Salt Lake City Foot and Ankle Clinic. Hammertoes won’t go away on their own. When left untreated, the condition only worsens over time. 

Our team examines your feet and discusses your symptoms to confirm a diagnosis of hammertoes. Once you have a diagnosis, we work with you to create a personalized hammertoes treatment plan based on your symptoms and needs.

Some of the most effective treatments for hammertoes include:

  • Changing to the correct type of shoes for feet with hammertoes
  • Wearing custom orthotics for better support
  • Practicing foot and toe exercises to improve strength and balance
  • Taping your affected toe(s) to the neighboring toes
  • Wearing a splint at night to retrain your toe(s)
  • Getting cortisone steroid shots to ease toe and foot pain

For people with severe hammertoes, we may recommend hammertoes surgery. There are different types of surgery based on the flexibility of your toes.

A tenotomy works by cutting the tendon, and arthroplasty works by resurfacing and realigning the bones. Both types of surgery help you walk pain-free again. 

Learn more about preventing hammertoes or explore your treatment options for the condition by scheduling an appointment with our team at Salt Lake City Foot and Ankle Clinic in Holladay or West Jordan, Utah.