You Don't Have to Suffer From Hammertoe: We Can Help

Have you felt a twinge when you walk, and then noticed that one of your toes no longer lies flat but is bent in the middle and sticks up? You have a hammertoe. Hammertoes are most common in the toe next to your big toe, but they can occur in the third, fourth, or little toe as well. One or more muscles in the toe has weakened, creating a muscle imbalance. The muscles no longer support the toe’s middle joint, which is pushed up in the air.  

Board-certified orthopedic surgeons and our physical medicine physician at San Diego Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center, Inc. provide expert treatment every day for patients with hammertoes. 

What caused my hammertoe? 

Your hammertoe may have multiple causes. Following are the most prevalent reasons why hammertoes develop.


If you have flat or highly arched feet, you’ll be more likely to get a hammertoe than someone whose foot has a normal arch. Genetics play a huge role in our skeletal structure. 

Shoe choice 

If you’re a woman, you may have worn high heels for years. Most are too narrow and cram your toes into the top of the shoe. High heels don’t have proper arch support, and they place incredible pressure on your toes and joints. Your toe may be bent every time you wear high heels; eventually, the toe muscle can’t straighten out. It’s not surprising that hammertoes are more common in women than men.  

Health conditions

If you have neuromuscular conditions, you may be more prone to developing hammertoe. 

What are the most effective treatments for hammertoe? 

Your physician usually starts with conservative treatment before thinking about surgery. 


If your hammertoe is really painful, making it difficult to walk, your San Diego Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Centers physician may give you a steroid injection to calm the inflammation. That can provide temporary relief. 

Change your footwear

Your doctor explains the role of ill-fitting shoes in hammertoe development. Choose shoes with a toe box wide enough to allow your toes to lie flat instead of being jammed against one another. Make sure the shoes have proper arch support as well, which can help prevent a hammertoe from worsening. 

Foot exercises 

Your physician gives you instructions for foot exercises that can help strengthen your toe muscles. Picking up marbles with your toes is an exercise physicians and physical therapists often recommend. Placing a towel under your feet and trying to scrunch it up with your toes is another. 

Straps, cushions, corn pads

Your physician may suggest specific types of straps or pads to help relieve your pain and stretch the toe. One type is an elastic strap that you place around the toe; it’s held in place by a soft cushion. You’ll need to try on shoes to ensure the pad can fit. A corn pad may provide support and pain relief. 

Custom orthotics

Your doctor may recommend custom orthotics made specifically for your foot. The orthotic provides cushioning while encouraging your toe to straighten out. 


If no conservative treatment works, your physician discusses surgery using a technique called resection arthroplasty. Hammertoe surgery normally produces excellent results.  

Call or book an appointment online with San Diego Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center, Inc. for expert treatment of all your musculoskeletal needs. 

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