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A hammertoe is a deformity of the second, third, or fourth toe. This condition causes a bend in the toe’s middle joint, which makes the toe resemble a hammer—hence the name.
Hammertoes can be caused by a muscle imbalance as well as wearing shoes that don’t fit properly or have a narrow toe box, such as high heels. When shoes that get narrow toward the toe are worn, it causes the toes to bend, and if a toe becomes bent and held in the same position long enough, it can cause the toe to become stuck in this position, creating a hammertoe.
Depending on the severity of the condition, a doctor may recommend one of the following nonsurgical options to treat the hammertoe:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Orthotic inserts
- Switching to a more comfortable shoe, such as sandals, or a shoe that provides one-half inch of room past your longest toe
- Toe exercises
If nonsurgical treatment options don’t work for you, surgery may be recommended to correct the hammertoe. The surgical procedure suggested will depend on the type and severity of the hammertoe.