An inherited muscle imbalance or abnormal bone length can make one or more small toes buckle under, causing their joints to contract. This in turn causes the tendons to shorten. Corns (build-ups of dead skin cells where shoes press and rub) often form ojn top of the contracted joints, and may become irritated and infected. Hammertoes are surgically corrected by various means depending on the flexibility or rigidity of the deformaty. Sometimes the hammer toe is repaired by a procedure known as an Arthroplasty where a portion of the contracted joint is removed. Other times the deformity is repaired by a procedure known as an Arthrodesis where the contracted joint is repaired by fusing the joint together.
Often, a foot with a bunion will also have a hammertoe. Overtime, the bunion slants the big toe toward and then under the second toe (the most often “hammered” toe), raising the second toe to a claw-like position.
Hammertoes can also occur when a bunion is not present. Those people with high arches, a tendency to rotate theri feet inward when walking, or rheumatoid arthritis, are especially susceptible. Once stiffened into position, hammertoes rub against shoes and cause painful corns and calluses.