(See also Overview of Foot Problems.)
Among the causes of hammer toe are unusually long metatarsal or toe bones, poor alignment of foot joint surfaces, rheumatoid arthritis, and years of wearing ill-fitting shoes. Because part of the toe is higher than normal, excessive friction may result, leading to corns and possibly open sores (ulcers) on the top of the toe. The second toe is the most common toe to develop hammer toe deformity.
Wearing shoes, particularly shoes with low and narrow toe boxes, may be painful. Sometimes people develop pain in the ball of the foot (metatarsalgia).
Doctors treat hammer toe by ensuring that the shoes are comfortable and have a wide enough toe box to avoid further irritation to the toe. Toe pads sold in pharmacies also help by shielding the affected toes from the overlying shoe.
Any ulcer or other skin irritation is treated.
An operation to straighten the hammer toe may be needed when other treatments do not relieve the pain and disability caused by the rigidly fixed toe.
To alleviate the pain caused by metatarsalgia, people can use orthoses (devices placed in the shoe).