Clear Step Podiatry

What is a hammer toe?

A hammer toe is a deformity that causes your toe to bend or curl downward instead of pointing forward. This deformity can affect any toe on your foot. It most often affects the second or third toe. Although a hammer toe may be present at birth, it usually develops over time due to arthritis or wearing ill-fitting shoes, such as tight, pointed heels. In most cases, a hammer toe condition is treatable.


  • Certain shoes – wearing high heels or shoes that are too tight through the box can force toes into a flexed position. When worn repeatedly, the toes may not be able to straighten, even when barefoot.
  • Sex – women are more likely to develop hammer toe than men.
  • Injuries – When a toe is broken, stubbed, or jammed, it may be more likely to develop hammer toe.
  • Age – risk increases with age.
  • Toe length – if the second toe is longer than the big toe, hammer toe is more likely to occur.
  • Certain diseases – people suffering from conditions like arthritis or diabetes are more likely to develop foot problems, including hammer toe
  • Genetics – sometimes, hammer toe is hereditary and may run in families.

Due to footwear styles, women are more likely than men to develop hammer toe. The risk of hammer toe also rises with age.


Most cases of hammertoe can be prevented by wearing shoes that fit properly and give the toes plenty of room. Some recommended guidelines include: 

  • Avoid shoes with pointed or narrow toes. 
  • Avoid shoes that are too tight or short. 
  • Avoid high-heeled shoes, which can force the toes forward. 
  • If the shoes hurt, don’t wear them. 
  • Choose shoes with wide or boxy toes. 
  • Choose shoes that are a half-inch longer than your longest toe. 

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