The Causes of Hammertoes

Dr. Courtney Conley (DC, BS’s in Kinesiology & Human Biology)


The causes of hammertoes. Someone's feet who is suffering with hammertoes.

The causes of hammertoes


Hammertoes are a foot deformity that can cause pain and discomfort. They occur when the toes, usually the second, third, or fourth, become bent at the middle joint, resembling a hammer. Understanding the causes of hammertoes is crucial for preventing and treating this condition. In this article, we will discuss the various factors that contribute to the development of hammertoes and provide tips on how to prevent and treat them.

Anatomy of the Foot and Its Role in the Development of Hammertoes

Anatomy of the Foot and Its Role in the Development of Hammertoes. Diagram of a foot that shows the anatomy.

Anatomy of the Foot and Its Role in the Development of Hammertoes


The foot is a complex structure consisting of bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It can be divided into three parts: the hindfoot, midfoot, and forefoot. The hindfoot includes the heel and ankle bones, the midfoot consists of the arches and the ball of the foot, and the forefoot includes the toes.

The muscles, tendons, and bones of the foot play a crucial role in the development of hammertoes. When the muscles and tendons become imbalanced, they can pull the toes out of alignment, leading to the development of hammertoes. This can happen due to various reasons such as wearing high heels or shoes with a narrow toe box, or due to a medical condition such as arthritis. Additionally, some people are born with a foot structure that makes them more prone to developing hammertoes.

In summary, the anatomy of the foot and the role of tendons, muscles, and bones are critical factors in the development of hammertoes. Understanding these factors is essential for preventing and treating hammertoes.

3 Main Causes of Hammertoes

  1. Footwear
    Wearing shoes that do not fit properly can contribute to the development of hammertoes. Shoes that are too tight, too loose, or have a narrow toe box can squeeze the toes together, leading to deformities. High heels, narrow shoes, and shoes with pointed toes can also increase the risk of hammertoes. You can find our recommendations for footwear here.
  2. Weakness in the feet
    Muscular imbalances between the toe flexors and extensors can contribute to the formation of hammertoes.
  3. Medical Conditions
    Certain medical conditions can cause hammertoes. Arthritis can lead to inflammation and deformities in the joints, including the joints of the toes. Diabetes can cause nerve damage, reducing sensation in the feet and increasing the risk of developing hammertoes. 

Neuromuscular disorders such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy can also contribute to the development of hammertoes.


In conclusion, by understanding the causes of hammertoes and taking the necessary steps to prevent and treat this condition, you can minimize your risk of developing this deformity and maintain optimal foot health. If you think you do have hammertoes, why not have a Virtual Consultation with a Gait Happens clinician? There’s so much you can do to reduce any symptoms you might be experiencing.

FAQs about Hammertoes

What are hammertoes?

Hammertoes are a foot deformity that occurs when one or more toes become bent at the middle joint, resembling a hammer.

What causes hammertoes?

Hammertoes can be caused by a variety of factors, including weakness of the foot musculature, wearing poorly fitting shoes, and medical conditions such as arthritis.

Can hammertoes be prevented?

Yes, hammertoes can be prevented by wearing properly fitting shoes and doing exercises to strengthen the foot muscles.

What are the symptoms of hammertoes?

Symptoms of hammertoes include pain, swelling, and redness in the affected area, as well as difficulty moving the affected toe.

How should I treat my hammertoes?

Treatment for hammertoes depends on the severity of the condition. Non-surgical options such as wearing orthotic devices or padding the affected area may help in the early stages. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the deformity. For more details you can read our article about the treatment of hammertoes here.

Do hammertoes cause any complications?

Yes, if left untreated, hammertoes can cause pain, discomfort, and difficulty walking. They can also lead to other foot problems such as calluses, corns, and bunions.

Can I cure my hammertoes?

While hammertoes can be managed and treated, there is no cure for this condition. However, taking preventative measures and seeking prompt treatment can help to minimize symptoms and improve foot health.

*Please note that the answers provided here are for informational purposes only and should not replace professional medical advice. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan based on your specific condition.

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