A hammer toe is a deformity of the second, third, or fourth toes that causes the affected toe to bend at the middle joint and curl under unnaturally. The condition occurs due to an imbalance or tightness of the muscles, tendons, or ligaments that normally hold the toe straight. Hammer toes typically start out flexible, but if left untreated, the toe joint can stiffen and become rigid, permanently locking the toe in the curled position. This rigidity can lead to pain and swelling, making standing, walking, or running difficult. 

Is a rigid hammer toe forcing you to cut your favorite activities short or making you too embarrassed to show your feet? Though conservative treatment methods can relieve minor discomfort caused by flexible hammer toes – and prevent the progressive deformity from worsening – getting rid of a rigid hammer toe requires surgical correction. 

At Khosroabadi Institute, internationally celebrated foot and ankle surgeon Dr. Alireza Khosroabadi, DPM, uses his exclusive minimally invasive AMI-HAMMERTOE® procedure to help discerning clients with fast-paced lifestyles get back to their busy schedules faster – and with less discomfort – than traditional surgeries. Here’s what you should know about hammer toes and Dr. K’s groundbreaking surgical technique. 

Hammer Toe Causes, Risk Factors, and Conservative Care  

Hammer toes are more likely when the muscles weaken, putting pressure on the tendons and joints. These deformities can be caused by a genetic predisposition, meaning hammer toes or other foot-related structural abnormalities run in your family, medical conditions such as arthritis or diabetes, or wearing narrow, poorly-fitting shoes. 

Successfully treating a flexible hammer toe can be as simple as opting for wider, better-fitting shoes or using a splint to hold the affected toe in the proper position. Custom orthotics that fit inside your shoes to provide precise support and cushioning can also be beneficial. Additionally, over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as Advil (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen) or icing the toe for up to 10 minutes at a time can help manage minor discomfort and swelling.