Hammer Toe Exercises – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

hammer toe exercises

The importance of finding reliable and effective solutions to common foot problems such as hammer toe and exploring different hammer toe exercises that can help reduce discomfort and promote overall foot health.

Whether you’re dealing with the early stages of hammer toe or trying to prevent its development, these exercises can make a significant difference to your well-being.

What is Hammer Toe?

A hammer toe is a deformity of the second, third, or fourth toe that causes it to bend or curve downwards in a hammer-like manner.

This condition can be painful, limit your ability to wear certain shoes comfortably and, in some cases, affect your balance.

Symptoms of Hammer Toe

Hammer toe is a common foot condition that can cause significant discomfort and affect your daily life.

Recognizing the symptoms is important for early diagnosis and effective management.

Here is a description of hammer toe symptoms to help you better understand this condition.

1. Toe deformity:

One of the main symptoms of hammer toe is the deformity itself.

The affected toe, usually the second, third, or fourth toe, bends or twists like a hammer at the middle joint.

If left untreated, this deformity may become more pronounced over time.

2. Pain and discomfort:

Individuals with hammertoes often experience pain and discomfort in the toe of the affected foot.

It can range from mild to severe depending on the extent of the deformity and the presence of other contributing factors.

3. Corns and calluses:

The abnormal shape of the toe can cause rubbing inside your shoes. This friction can lead to the development of corns or calluses, which are thickened, hard areas of skin.

These can be painful and may require regular maintenance to prevent worsening.

4. Swelling and difficulty walking:

Some people with hammer toe may notice swelling around the affected joint. This may be a result of the swelling caused by the deformity and the pressure it puts on surrounding tissues.

Hammer toe can make it challenging to walk and maintain a normal gait. The altered structure of the toes can lead to uneven distribution of weight on the foot, resulting in pain and discomfort while walking.

5. Restricted range of motion:

The bent position of the big toe can limit its range of motion, making it difficult to bend or straighten.

This restriction can affect your balance and the overall functioning of your legs.

6. Stiffness and balance issue:

The affected toe may become stiff over time, making it difficult to move or bend naturally.

Altered foot mechanics caused by hammertoes can lead to balance problems, increasing the risk of trips and falls.

7. Redness and irritation:

In some cases, the skin around the bent joint may become red and irritated due to the constant friction and pressure of the shoe.

8. Inability to straighten the toe:

As the hammer toe progresses, the affected toe may become fixed in a bent position, making it impossible to straighten without medical intervention.

Hammer Toe Exercises

Getting into a routine of hammer toe exercises can be a proactive approach to managing this condition and improving the overall health of your feet.

Before beginning this exercise, it is extremely important to consult a healthcare professional, such as a podiatrist, to ensure that your specific condition is appropriately evaluated.

This consultation will help determine if these exercises are appropriate for your unique case. Once you get the go-ahead, you can incorporate the following beneficial hammer-toe exercises into your daily routine:

1. Toe Stretching:

Toe stretching improves flexibility and helps reduce the stiffness that often accompanies hammertoe.

Gentle but consistent stretching helps counter the downward bending of the toes, gradually restoring a more natural alignment.

How to do toe stretching:

  1. Start by finding a comfortable sitting position with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Use your hand to gently grasp the affected big toe and pull it backward as far as it will comfortably go without causing pain.
  3. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds to allow the muscles and ligaments of the toe to lengthen.
  4. Release the stretch and repeat several times for each affected toe.

2. Marble Pickup:

Marble pickup exercises can greatly increase the dexterity and flexibility of your toes. This exercise encourages complex movements, promoting better control and mobility in the affected toes.

It also helps strengthen the muscles that control the movement of the toes.

How to do marble pickup:

  1. Place some stones on the floor in front of you.
  2. Using only your toes, try to pick up each marble from the floor, one by one, and place it in a separate container.
  3. Repeat this process until you have picked up all the marbles.

3. Toe Tapping:

Tapping the toes stimulates blood flow to the toes and increases flexibility. The rhythmic motion encourages circulation, reducing stiffness and discomfort associated with the hammer toe.

How to do toe tapping:

  1. Start this exercise by sitting comfortably.
  2. Lift each toe one by one, tapping it gently on the floor before returning it to its original position.
  3. Do this exercise on the toe of each foot.

4. Toe Flexing:

Toe flexion exercises target the muscles of the toes, promoting strength and mobility.

This exercise is especially effective for dealing with the downward turning of the affected toe.

How to do toe flexing:

  1. Sit with your feet flat on the floor, making sure your heels stay in place.
  2. Try to curl your toes upward while keeping your heels down.
  3. Hold this flexed position for a few seconds, then release.
  4. Repeat this exercise several times.

5. Resistance Band Exercises:

Resistance band exercises help build strength in the muscles of the toes.

This added strength helps support proper alignment and function of the toe, reducing the hammertoe effect.

How to do resistance band exercises:

  1. This exercise requires a resistance band.
  2. Loop the resistance band around your toes, providing gentle tension.
  3. Working against the tension, curl your toes against the resistance of the band.
  4. Do several sets of this exercise.

Causes of Hammer Toe

Hammer toe, a prevalent foot condition, is affected by a variety of factors. The understanding of these causative elements is important in both prevention and management.

These are the causes of Hammer Toe:

1. Inherited Factors:

The genetic component is an important aspect of the development of the hammer toe. If you have a family history of this condition, it increases your susceptibility.

Genetics can affect the structure and alignment of your foot bones, tendons, and ligaments.

Inheriting certain foot traits from your family line may make you more likely to develop hammertoes.

2. Footwear:

The role of shoes cannot be overstated. Wearing shoes that are too tight or have narrow toes can force your toes into an unnatural position.

Prolonged pressure and contraction can significantly increase the risk of developing a hammer toe.

Poorly fitting shoes, especially high-heeled shoes, can disrupt the natural alignment of the toes, leading to deformities.

3. Muscle and Ligament Imbalance:

An often overlooked but important factor in the development of hammer toe is the balance of muscles and ligaments within the foot.

Weak or imbalanced muscles and ligaments can contribute to a deformity by allowing some toes to stretch more than others.

This imbalance can cause one or more toes to bend. The muscles and ligaments are responsible for maintaining the proper alignment of the toes, and any disruption in this balance can trigger the onset of hammer toe.

4. Arthritis:

Arthritis, a group of inflammatory joint conditions, can contribute significantly to the development of hammer toe.

In particular, rheumatoid arthritis is known to cause inflammation in the joints of the toes, which can lead to deformities such as hammer toe.

The inflammation of arthritis affects the joints‘ ability to function properly, and over time, the toe may lose its natural alignment.

A Complex Interaction:

It is important to note that these factors often interact, creating a complex interplay that results in hammer toe.

For example, someone with a genetic predisposition may have a higher risk of developing this condition when they wear ill-fitting shoes or suffer from imbalances in the muscles and ligaments of their toes.

In some cases, the presence of arthritis can aggravate an existing hammertoe condition.

Understanding the multifaceted nature of the causes of hammer toe underscores the importance of proactive prevention measures, including choosing appropriate shoes, maintaining a healthy lifestyle to support muscle and ligament health, and treating the condition when experiencing symptoms or having a family history of the condition.

But involves taking medical advice. By addressing these causative factors, individuals can reduce the risk of developing hammer toe and increase the overall health of their feet.

Treatment of Hammer Toe

Hammer toe is a condition that can range from mild discomfort to severe deformity.

The treatment approach often depends on the severity of the condition, your symptoms, and your overall health.

Below, we’ll explore both non-surgical and surgical options for treating hammer toe.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options:

The following are Non-surgical treatment options for hammer toe:

1. Lifestyle modifications:

The first and most important non-surgical approach to managing hammer toe is to choose appropriate shoes.

Select footwear with low heels, a wide-toe box, and supportive arches. This helps prevent further irritation and discomfort.

2. Toe exercises:

Hammer Toe Exercise can help improve the flexibility of the toes and strengthen the surrounding muscles and ligaments.

As mentioned in the previous section, exercises such as toe stretching, marble pickup, toe-tapping, toe flexing, and resistance band exercises can be beneficial if done consistently.

3. Orthotic devices:

Over-the-counter or custom-made orthotic inserts can help correct foot mechanics, provide better support, and reduce pressure on the toes.

They are especially useful when combined with properly fitting shoes.

4. Padding and taping:

A variety of padding and taping techniques can provide cushioning and support for the affected toes, reducing friction and pain.

5. Medications:

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help manage the pain and swelling associated with hammer toe.

6. Corn and Callus Management:

Regular maintenance of corns and calluses, which often develop due to deformities, can help reduce discomfort.

Soaking your feet and gently scrubbing the thick skin can provide relief.

Surgical Treatment Options:

If conservative, non-surgical treatments fail to alleviate symptoms or if the deformity has progressed to a severe extent, surgical intervention may be considered.

The specific procedure chosen depends on the severity and location of the deformity. Common surgical options include:

1. Arthroplasty:

In this procedure, the surgeon removes a portion of the affected joint. It is often used in cases where the deformity is not severe, and the joint can still be saved.

2. Arthrodesis:

Arthrodesis involves reattaching the affected joint, usually for severe deformity or if other surgical options are not suitable. This procedure provides stability but reduces the flexibility of the affected toe.

3. Tendon Transfer:

In some cases, the surgeon may move the tendon from below the toe up, correcting the deformity. This procedure can help straighten the toe and restore function.

4. Joint Implant:

In joint replacement surgery, the surgeon may replace the affected joint with an artificial implant. This option is considered when the joint is severely damaged and needs replacement to restore function.

5. Tendon Lengthening:

Tendon lengthening surgery is used to relieve tension in the tendons and ligaments around the affected joint, allowing the toe to straighten.

It is essential to consult a health care professional such as a podiatrist or orthopedic specialist to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your specific case. They will consider factors such as the severity of your condition, your overall health, and your lifestyle when recommending a treatment strategy. Whether you choose non-surgical or surgical methods, the goal is to relieve pain, correct deformity, and restore the normal functioning of your toes, thereby enhancing the overall health of your feet and quality of life.


In conclusion, hammer toe can be a painful and limiting condition, but with the right approach, including targeted hammer toe exercises, you can significantly improve the health of your feet. Remember to consult a health care professional to make sure these hammer toe exercises are appropriate for your specific case, and make them a regular part of your routine for best results. By taking proactive steps and following these guidelines, you can work toward a more comfortable and pain-free life free from the constraints of hammer toe.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *