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Hammertoe, although perhaps daunting in name, is a treatable condition. The condition results from a deformity of the second through fifth toes, causing the toe to bend upward at the middle joint—thus resembling a hammer. As the bent portion of the toe rubs against a shoe, pain and irritation occur and the development of corns can emerge.

At OrthoAspen, we help patients with hammertoe find a solution to relieve painful symptoms—as quickly and as safely as possible.

Causes & Symptoms

The primary cause of hammertoe is wearing ill-fitting shoes that are too tight in the area near the toes. The condition is most common in women. In addition to wearing high-heeled and overly confining shoes, hammertoe occasionally occurs as a result of genetics, age, certain diseases (such as arthritis and diabetes), and toe length—when the second toe is longer than the big toe.

Symptoms of hammertoe include:

  • Pain in the toe or toes when wearing shoes
  • Irritation and inflammation of the affected toe(s)
  • Build-up of corns or calluses on or between the toes or on the ball of the foot
  • Inability to straighten the affected toe(s)

At OrthoAspen, our orthopedic foot and ankle experts will conduct a physical examination and go over your past and current medical information. Upon diagnosing hammertoe, an appropriate and individualized treatment plan will be created.


Early stages of hammertoe are flexible and may be treated by conservative measures such as:

  • Strapping the toes
  • Providing padding
  • Wearing appropriate footwear

In more severe cases, when conservative treatment doesn’t improve the condition, surgical correction will likely be recommended by your OrthoAspen physician.

Surgery may include a tendon transfer procedure, in which a tendon is rearranged from the lower side of the toe to the top, to pull the bent joint down and straighten the toe.

Stiff or fixed hammertoes may be corrected by joint resection or joint fusion (permanent straightening of the toe), which involves cutting tendons and ligaments of the joint and removing part of the bone to help straighten the joint. The straightened toe is held by pins for three to four weeks following surgery. Hammertoe correction is usually performed under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis.

There may be some swelling, redness and stiffness following surgery. A special shoe may be provided to help with walking. As with any surgical procedure, hammertoe correction may be associated with a few risks including infection, bleeding, nerve injury or poor alignment of the toe.

No matter what treatment protocol is suggested to address hammertoe, our ultimate goal is to ensure patients receive a safe and speedy recovery.

To schedule a consultation with one of our OrthoAspen orthopedic experts, simply click here to get started or call us at 970-544-1289.


Visit OrthoAspen in two convenient locations
Aspen Clinic
Aspen Valley Hospital
0401 Castle Creek Rd., Suite 2100,

Aspen, CO 81611
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400
Basalt Clinic
Midvalley Medical Center
1450 E. Valley Rd., Suite 201,

Basalt, CO 81621
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400