Hammertoes: Is Surgery the Only Option?

Hammertoes are a common foot problem that affects many people. These encompass various issues such as curly toes, claw toes, contracted toes, and crisscrossed toes. The deformity can cause discomfort, pain, and other foot problems, such as calluses and blisters. Hammertoes can develop slowly over time, and many people neglect the symptoms until the condition worsens. However, hammertoes surgery is not always the only option. There are other conservative treatments available that can help alleviate the symptoms and prevent the condition from worsening.

Symptoms and Problems Associated with Hammertoes

Hammertoes can cause a variety of symptoms and problems. The abnormal positioning of the toe can cause the skin to rub against shoes, leading to corns and calluses. Blisters may also form between the toes due to friction. In some cases, open wounds and infections can develop as a result of the structural problems associated with hammertoes. Over time, the tissues in the toes, including the joints, ligaments, and tendons, may become stiff and hard, making it difficult to treat the condition with conservative options.

Conservative Treatment Options

If you have hammertoes, the first step in treatment is to try conservative options. Orthotic shoe inserts can help realign the toes and alleviate pressure on the affected area. Gel pads, splints, and toe separators can also be effective for flexible hammertoes. If the condition is caught early, these treatments may be enough to prevent the condition from worsening.

Office-Based Procedure

If conservative treatments do not provide relief, an office-based procedure may be recommended. If the toe is still flexible, tight tendon release on the top or bottom of the toe can be effective in permanently solving the hammertoe problem. The procedure is quick, with little to no downtime, and minimal pain. Patients can usually walk on the same day and avoid the big production involved in hospital-based surgery. This procedure is cheaper and does not require recovery from IV or general anesthesia.

Surgical Options for Hammertoes

Surgery is usually the last option for hammertoes when all conservative treatments have failed. There are different foot surgical procedures available, depending on the severity and location of the hammertoe. The surgeon may remove a small piece of bone or lengthen or shorten the tendons and ligaments to correct the toe’s alignment. Recovery time varies depending on the procedure and the patient’s overall health.


Hammertoes can cause discomfort, pain, and other foot problems, but surgery is not always the only option. If you have hammertoes, it is important to consult with a foot doctor to prevent the condition from worsening and to determine the best course of treatment for your specific case.

Dr. Christopher Menke, DPM, FACFAS

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