Notice: Users may be experiencing issues with displaying some pages on stanfordhealthcare.org. We are working closely with our technical teams to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Thank you for your patience.
A hammer toe is a toe that bends up at the middle joint, while the end of the toe points down. The problem usually happens to the second toe.
A hammer toe can hurt a lot, especially as the toe rubs against your shoe when you walk. Shoes that are too tight can cause hammer toes. If a shoe forces a toe to stay bent for a long time, the muscles in your toe get tight and the tendons that connect the muscles to the bone get shorter. Over time, the muscles cannot straighten your toe. Sometimes, diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis also can cause hammer toes.
Early treatment can help your toe straighten before it gets badly bent. You can wear roomy shoes and use pads to keep the toe from rubbing against your shoes. If your toe is badly bent, you may need surgery to straighten it.