Plainfield (815) 439-1188 15724 S. Rt 59 Unit 100
Bolingbrook (630) 226-9860 215 Remington Blvd., Suite A2

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What to Do About Hammertoe

If you think you may have hammertoe, you may wonder when you need to see a foot specialist for treatment. There are a few things you may be able to do at home to find some relief but to completely fix the problem, you may need to consult with one of our podiatrists at Suburban Foot and Ankle, serving Bolingbrook, Plainfield and Joliet.

How Does Hammertoe Form?

The foot condition occurs when one of the inside toes takes on an odd shape, looking similar to a claw. If the toe is weak or isn’t working right, it can bend up at the joint in the middle. Muscles that operate properly work in tandem to bend and straighten toes. When the toe stays in the bent position too long, a hammertoe is the result. This abnormal function of the toe muscles can occur due to poorly fitting shoes, heredity, an injury or arthritis.

If one or more or your toes are persistently bent upwards at the knuckle, rubbing the top of the inside of your shoe and causing discomfort or calluses, you may have hammertoes. The three middle toes are most likely to be affected, however baby toes that curl rather than buckle may also fall under a hammertoe diagnosis.


The first and foremost cause of hammertoes is ill-fitting footwear. This condition affects women at a greater rate due to preference for pointed, heeled, or overall less supportive footwear. Still, some individuals may have a genetic disposition towards this condition. Insufficient circulation can also be a significant factor in the development of hammertoes.

Relieving Pain

To help relieve the pain of a hammertoe, start by wearing shoes with plenty of toe room. Avoid wearing high heeled shoes. Low heeled shoes help take the pressure of the toes. Leave at least a half an inch between the tip of the shoe and your longest toe. If you want to prevent hammertoe, don’t force your feet into shoes; they should fit naturally. When there isn’t enough room to accommodate all of your toes, tendons can get too tight and leave a permanent bend in the toe. You can also stretch your toes to help relax the tendons.

Flexible Hammertoes

If your toe has the appearance of a hammertoe—bent and accumulating signs of irritation from rubbing on your shoe—but is still able to be flexed at the joint manually or with your fingers, this is a good sign and means several treatment options are possible. It’s recommended that you see a podiatrist soon so that intervening steps can be taken to prevent the situation from becoming worse. Your podiatrist may recommend a custom insert, a change in footwear, inflammation-reducing medication, metatarsal pads, and specialized exercises.

Rigid Hammertoes

Rigid hammertoes cannot be bent or flexed from their seemingly permanent, bent state. Unfortunately, if your toes have reached this stage, it is likely that the only remedies available include surgery. In most cases, the procedure can be completed at a surgery center with no hospitalization time. Depending on the unique features of the hammertoe, different techniques will be used. Surgery may include removing a small piece of bone at the affected joint along with realignment of the connective tissue. The more severe the case is, the more complex surgery will become.


Choosing shoes with sufficient arch support, wearing orthotics, and avoiding tight-fitting shoes can greatly reduce your potential for developing hammertoes. Doing things to promote circulation can help reduce your risk. If you can, make sure to elevate your feet while sitting. It’s also helpful to take regular breaks from sitting and stretch your legs and feet. Getting a foot massage and hot foot bath—or giving yourself these treatments—can also be beneficial for circulation as well as overall podiatric health.

When to See a Podiatrist

If these home-based methods don’t offer relief, it may be time to see a podiatrist in Bolingbrook, Plainfield or Joliet. Sometimes surgical intervention is necessary to correct the problem. Schedule an appointment with a podiatrist at Suburban Foot and Ankle so we can determine the appropriate treatment.

If you’re dealing with foot pain or discomfort as a result of hammertoes, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible. Our podiatrist and foot surgeon in Joliet can help correct this issue. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Questions? Contact Us Today

Two Convenient Locations


15724 S. Rt 59 Unit 100

Plainfield, IL 60544

815-439-1188 phone

815-439-2453 fax

Illinois Podiatric Medical Association


215 Remington Blvd., Suite A2

Bolingbrook, IL 60440

630-226-9860 phone

815-439-2453 fax

American Podiatric Medical Association