A hammertoe is a deformity of the second, third or fourth toes that occurs when the toe is bent at the middle joint. When caught early, hammertoes are flexible and can be corrected with simple measures but, if left untreated, they can become fixed and require surgery.

The discomfort caused by hammertoes might only be mild at first, but walking can become difficult and painful if it progresses. If the toe fully retracts, it can be difficult to straighten out.

The most common cause of hammertoe is a muscle/tendon imbalance. This muscle imbalance puts a lot of pressure on the toe’s tendons and joints, which forces the toe into a hammerhead shape for which the condition is aptly named.

Unfortunately, genetics can also play a role in hammertoes as the inherent structure of your bones, muscles, and ligaments can sometimes make your feet more prone to the condition.

Women are also more likely to suffer from hammertoes than men as ill-fitting shoes such as high heels can also lead to this condition due to toes being forced into a cramped position.

If you have a hammertoe, you probably need medical attention, especially if the condition is in its advanced stages. If conservative measures fail, surgery will likely be required to alleviate a hammertoe. Typically, surgery is done on an outpatient basis with a local anesthetic.