Around 1 in 3 of us will develop misshapen or clawed toes. A hammer or claw toe is the term used to describe a deformity of the 2nd, 3rd or 4th toes where the toe becomes permanent bent at the middle joint and points downward instead of forwards, as though it is hammering on the ground.


The deformity usually becomes progressively worse and the joint becomes stiff and fixed in the bent position causing the top and the ends of the toe to rub on shoes. This friction may then lead to the development of corns and callus – read more here.

The deformity occurs due to an imbalance in the muscles surrounding the middle toe joint. These muscles, tendons, and ligaments normally work together to bend and straighten the toes. However, if one of the muscles weakens, the toe becomes bent and the muscles tighten, meaning the toe will not be able to then straighten out.

Most hammer toes are caused by wearing ill-fitting, tight or high-heeled shoes over a long period of time, hence why the deformity is most often seen in women. Shoes that don’t fit well can squash the toes, putting pressure on the middle toes and causing them to move downwards.

Some people can inherit the tendency to develop hammer toes depending on the shape of their foot or length of their toes and arthritis or injuries can also play a part in their development.

A podiatrist can recommend padding and strapping to cushion the deformity or if the hammer toe is still flexible, orthotics may help slow down the development. If the toe has become fixed surgery can help – read more here.

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