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I Inherited Hammertoe from a Parent. Is There Anything I Can Do About It?

I Inherited Hammertoe from a Parent. Is There Anything I Can Do About It?

Hammertoe is a foot deformity that happens when one (or several) of your smaller toes bends abnormally at the middle joint. It’s both uncomfortable and unsightly, and unfortunately, it’s often hereditary — which means if one of your parents has a hammertoe, you’re more likely to develop the condition yourself.

If you know one of your parents has a hammertoe, or you’ve noticed one forming on your own foot, you might be wondering what you can do about it. Lisa Burson, DPM and Joe Aoun, DPM, at The Foot & Ankle Specialists can help you answer that question.

Here’s what you should know about the reasons behind hammertoes and available treatment options that can help you manage the condition effectively.

The hereditary nature of hammertoes

Hammertoes get their name because the condition makes the affected toes bend into a downward arching shape that resembles the head of a hammer. Though there are a few possible causes, hammertoes are often hereditary due to genetic factors that influence the structure and function of your foot.

A few inherited foot characteristics that can contribute to hammertoes are:

Foot shape

The shape and structure of your foot, including high arches or flat feet, can predispose you to hammertoe. These foot types affect how weight is distributed across your toes, increasing the likelihood of developing the condition.

Muscle and tendon imbalances

Genetic factors can influence the balance and strength of the muscles and tendons in your feet. Imbalances can make certain toes bend abnormally over time.

Joint flexibility

Inherited joint hypermobility or stiffness can also contribute to the development of hammertoe, because your toes may be less able to adapt to normal walking pressures.

Other causes of hammertoe

Along with hereditary factors, other factors can increase your likelihood of developing hammertoe. Wearing tight, narrow shoes or high heels can crowd your toes and force them into a bent position. Over time, this can lead to hammertoe.

Toe injuries, like stubbing, jamming, or breaking a toe, can make your toe muscles and tendons shorten and contract, leading to hammertoe. Additionally, conditions like rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation and deformities in your joints, including your toes, which can result in hammertoe.

Treatment options for hammertoe

If you have inherited hammertoe or you’re experiencing symptoms, we offer a range of treatment options to alleviate discomfort and even correct the deformity. Depending on your situation, we may recommend conservative treatment, medical intervention, or a combination of the two.

Conservative care

Wearing shoes with a wide toe box and low heels can help relieve pressure on your toes. Look for shoes that provide adequate support and cushioning. Custom orthotic inserts can also help correct imbalances in your feet and distribute weight more evenly.

We may also give you stretching and strengthening exercises to help improve muscle balance and flexibility in your toes. Common exercises include toe curls, toe stretches, and picking up small objects with your toes.

Medical interventions

For more serious hammertoe symptoms, we might recommend padding and taping. Protective padding helps cushion the affected toe and reduce friction, and taping your toe into a correct position can also provide relief.

Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications can help manage pain and swelling associated with hammertoe. If you have more intense hammertoe pain, corticosteroid injections could be a good option for you.

Inheriting hammertoe from a parent can present challenges, but taking a proactive approach helps you manage the condition effectively. Talk to our team to learn more about the best course of action for your situation, so you can maintain comfortable and healthy feet for years to come.


Call our offices in Bay City, Caro, and Lapeer, Michigan, or request an appointment online to get started.

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