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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury


Matiwae hama

hammertoe affecting a second toeIf you have a hammertoe, it means one or more of your toes have bent abnormally.

Hammertoe can develop in any of your toes, but it usually affects the middle three and, most often, the second toe. It tends to run in families.

Hammertoe happens because the muscles and tendons of your foot do not work together properly. Over time this makes the toe bend into the hammertoe shape. If your toe stays in this position, the muscles and tendons tighten, and your toe stays bent.

Causes of hammertoe

Several things can lead to hammertoe. They include:

Symptoms of hammertoe

The symptoms that suggest you're developing hammertoe include:

Preventing hammertoe

The best way to avoid hammertoe is to make sure you wear shoes that fit you properly. Podiatrists suggest you get your feet measured properly. Then, when buying shoes:

Also make sure you limit the amount of time you wear high heels, and keep your toes flexible with stretches and exercises such as picking up objects with your toes.

When buying shoes for tamariki (children), make sure the shoes are fitted properly, especially at times the tamariki are growing rapidly.

Treating hammertoe

As long as hammertoe is not causing any pain or changing the way you walk, it doesn't need to be treated. Hammertoe is usually irreversible but if you follow the points above, you can slow down the rate of it getting worse.

You should see a podiatrist if your toe is painful, and you have difficulty walking. The podiatrist will be able to provide advice and treatment, which may include padding the top part of your toe or taping it to change its position.

You can find a podiatrist by searching on Podiatry NZ's website.

Written by Podiatry NZ. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed April 2023.


Page reference: 225233

Review key: HICCA-28239