Hammertoes are painful bone contractures of the toes, usually with an associated area of hyperkeratosis or callous. They may be individual, or there may be hammertoes present on all eight lesser toes. The great toe can also develop a hammertoe.

The contractures may exist at either or both of the joints within the toes, in which there may also be arthritis. In addition to a downward contracture of a hammertoe, there may also be a side contracture, where one toe may be rotated beneath another adjacent toe.

A second hammertoe may be commonly associated with a bunion deformity. In some instances, there may be an infection beneath the callous of a hammertoe.

The causes of hammertoes are similar to those of bunions.

The pain associated with hammertoes can vary, depending upon the location, duration, shoe style, amount of activity and pain tolerance. The pain is frequently associated with a “corn”. Although the corn is painful, it is really not the underlying cause of the problem. If the corn is trimmed, the pain will commonly decrease or stop temporarily.

However due to the underlying bony problem associated with the corn, the corn will continue to develop until the bony hammertoe problem is treated. Probably the most common misunderstanding, is the belief that trimming a corn will cure a hammertoe. Although trimming a corn will help the pain, it does nothing to address the internal bone problem.