Close Button

Hammer toe (claw toe or mallet toe)

Hammer toe, claw toe and mallet toe are due to an imbalance in the muscles, tendons or ligaments that normally hold your toe straight. A hammer toe has an abnormal bend in the middle joint of the toe, commonly affecting the second, third and fourth toes.

What is a hammer toe or claw toe/mallet toe?

A hammer toe is a relatively common and often painful condition affecting the second, third or fourth toes. A muscle imbalance in the muscles and tendons that normally hold your toe straight causes an abnormal bend in the middle joint of the toe, a mallet toe is similar but affects the joint nearest your toenail.

Hammer toe causes your shoes to rub and sometimes affects the way you walk. This can cause further problems to develop such as blisters, calluses and corns, and, if it causes stress on the ball of the foot this can lead to referred pain (metatarsalgia) in other areas of the foot.

The condition has two stages; flexible hammer toes (where toes can still be moved at the joint) and rigid hammer toes (where the joint cannot be moved). Rigid hammer toes occur at a later stage, where the tendons are locked in place, and surgery is usually required to correct this condition.

Sports injury care at Benenden Hospital

Sports injury care

Whether you're an amateur or a professional athlete, sports injuries can be a frustrating and painful part of participating in physical activity.

That's why we offer a wide range of self-pay treatment options - so you can get back to taking part in the sports you love.

I have a question about hammer toe treatment

What causes a hammer toe?

Hammer toe causes include:

  • The type of shoes you wear
  • Foot structure
  • Trauma
  • Certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Family history of a hammer toe

What are the symptoms of a hammer toe?

Hammer toe symptoms are very visible and include:

  • Pain at the top of the toe joint
  • Bent toes
  • Corns or callouses on the top of the toe joint
  • Swollen toe joint
  • Joint appears red
  • Toe joint is difficult to move, and painful when it does
  • Painful ball of the foot underneath the bent toe

How is hammer toe diagnosed?

Your GP should be able to diagnose hammer toe after a short examination. They may refer you to our experienced Podiatry team, which specialises in diagnosing and treating hammer toe and they can advise on the best hammer toe surgery or treatment for you.

What is hammer toe treatment?

Treatment for hammer toe may involve changing your footwear or wearing inserts to reposition your toes and relieve pain and pressure.

There are exercises for hammer toe correction which adjust muscle imbalances. Your Consultant, podiatrist or physiotherapist would be able to advise you on these.

In more severe cases, hammer toe treatment may include a steroid (corticosteroid or cortisone) injections directly into the joint may be recommended to help reduce inflammation. Surgery is sometimes recommended as a way to correct hammer toe, depending on the severity.

What happens during treatment for hammer toe?

Your operation may be carried out under a general anaesthetic (where you’ll be asleep) or a local anaesthetic (where you’ll be awake, but unable to feel anything). A typical hammer toe operation takes less than an hour and you’ll usually go home on the same day.

There are several surgical techniques used to treat hammer toes, depending on the severity of your condition. Milder cases may involve removing a small piece of bone from the joint, to realign the toe.

Severe cases may require surgery to release or lengthen tendons, put joints back into place or change the shape of a bone to realign the toe. In such cases, wires or tiny screws may be needed to fix your toe in place.

Our Consultant Surgeon

Mr Macfarlane

Andrew Macfarlane

Consultant Podiatric Surgeon

Mr Macfarlane's specialties include bunions, osteoarthritis of toe joints, joint implants, hammertoes, Morton's Neuroma, forefoot pain and more.

Contact us about hammer toe treatment

It's easy to find out more about treatment by giving us a call or completing our enquiry form.