A hammertoe is an abnormal bending of the joint(s) of the toe.  It causes the end of the toe to be stuck in a downward position.  In its early stages, a hammertoe is flexible and can be moved at the joint.  Without treatment, over time the hammertoe becomes rigid and cannot be moved at the joint.  A hammertoe can be serious for diabetics and those with circulatory problems.     


A hammertoe forms when the muscles or tendons in the toe are imbalanced.  The resulting pressure on the joints causes the toe to take on the hammerhead shape.  An imbalance can be due to arthritis, injury, or inherited genes.


The most noticeable symptom of a hammertoe is its shape.  The toe is bent at the middle joint and is stuck in a downward position.  Other symptoms may include the following:

  • Pain, especially when wearing shoes or trying to move the joint
  • Redness and swelling of the toe joint
  • A corn on the top of the toe
  • A callus on the ball of the foot
  • Difficulty moving the toe joint

Serious symptoms that warrant medical attention include blisters, open sores, a worsening of pain, and difficulty walking.


Dr. Burmeister will be able to diagnose a hammertoe by getting a complete history of your symptoms and by doing a thorough examination of your foot.  He may also order an x-ray to determine the extent to which the toe(s) has been deformed.


Early treatment is crucial for a hammertoe.  With it, there is a chance of improvement.  Without it, a hammertoe will worsen and become more debilitating.  Treatment for a hammertoe is determined by the severity of the diagnosis.  Dr. Burmeister will offer a plan of treatment that is tailored to your diagnosis.

Non-surgical treatments include the following:

  • Wearing proper-fitting shoes that do not force the toe to bend at the front of the shoe
  • Using non-medicated over-the-counter hammertoe pads to help relieve pressure
  • Using non-medicated over-the-counter corn/callus pads to protect corns/calluses from being irritated
  • Gentle toe massage to reduce pain
  • Ice to reduce swelling and pain
  • Custom orthotics to help control the imbalance
  • Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAIDs)
  • Cortisone injections to relieve inflammation and pain
  • Foot exercises
  • Splinting or strapping the toe in order to realign it


When a hammertoe is not improved by non-surgical treatments, surgery may be required.  Surgical treatments for less severe cases of hammertoe can involve the removal of a small piece of the bone at the joint, after which the joint is realigned.   Surgical treatments for more severe cases of hammertoe can involve the cutting or moving of ligaments and tendons.  Occasionally the bones on each side of the joint have to be fused together.


Hammertoes can be prevented by wearing properly-fitting shoes and by practicing proper foot care.  The shoes should have wide toe-boxes and heels no higher than two inches.  They should be chosen for their appropriateness for their intended use.


If you experience symptoms of hammertoes, Dr. Jeffrey Burmeister, DPM, and his experienced staff are ready to fully diagnose, treat, and see you on your way to pain-free living.  Schedule an appointment by completing an online appointment request at www.jacksonvillefootandlaser.com/contact.html  or by calling (904) 765-8889.