How to Straighten Hammer Toes

Hammer toes are caused when the tendons on the top and the bottom of the toe contract or become rigid. Typically, the second toe is most likely to be bent and to suffer from hammer toe syndrome. This can be quite painful, and if the toe is not straightened, the tendon could be permanently altered, requiring surgery to fix. Typical non-surgical treatment includes using a double toe straightener, which is a splint that holds the second and third toes together using two loops. The straightener has a pad which cushions the bottom of the foot.

Things You'll Need

  • Hammer toe splint or lambs wool pads

  • Roomy shoes

  • Medicated corn pads

Step 1

Get familiar with your hammer toe splint. Try it on and walk with it barefoot for a few steps. Put on a light sock so you will be able to assess whether the splint will slip around inside your sock or stay in place. Then put on your shoes. Your shoes must fit comfortably over the splint without squeezing any part of your foot. If your shoes do not fit properly, you will need to find roomier shoes to accommodate both your foot and the splint.

Step 2

Wear the splint for as many hours as possible, gradually building up your tolerance. You should be able to tolerate the double toe split for four to five hours a day to start, if your job does not require too much standing or walking. By the second week of treatment, you should be able to wear the splint for a much longer period of time—at least 12 hours a day.

Step 3

Introduce gentle straightening exercises as your strength improves. Stretch your calf muscles several times a day, especially if you have been sitting for a long time or upon getting out of bed in the morning. Stretch each of your toes by gently pulling them straight out with your fingers and bending them upward. Go slowly—your flexibility will build over time.

Step 4

Soften any corns that may have developed on your toe. This is most easily done with medicated corn pads you can pick up from any pharmacy. Cut them to fit and they will be more comfortable.

Step 5

Go barefoot as often as possible to keep your feet cool and to make the double toe splint more comfortable to wear.

Tip

As long as the toe is flexible, you can use non-surgical treatments to relieve the poor curvature. Once the toe is rigid, surgical treatment will be required. Wear flat-soled shoes as much as possible, both while using the splint and after your toe is straight. Take over-the-counter pain medications to relieve the pain from your hammer toe.

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