Hammer toe is a deformity involving the lesser toes. In a hammer toe, the joint in the middle of the lesser toe bends downward and becomes crooked. This is often accompanied by elevation of the joint at the base of the toe. The second toe is most commonly involved because this toe is often the longest, but any of the lesser toes may be affected.
The most frequent cause of hammer toe is tight fitting shoes or high heels that compress the toes into a narrow toe box. When the toes are repetitively held in this position, the tendons and ligaments eventually become stiff which makes the deformity permanent.
Another common source of hammer toes is the presence of a bunion. As the big toe shifts toward the outer side of the foot, the second toe is pushed upward leading to the deformity. The causes of hammer toe include:
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- Tight fitting shoes
- High heels
- Bunion (deformity of the big toe pushes on second toe)
- Injury to the toe
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Imbalance of the muscles controlling the toes