Hammer toes (also known as claw toes, mallet toes or retracted toes) are toes that are permanently bent. Hammer toes are caused by hallux valgus or because your toes are squashed by poorly fitting shoes and/or socks. Hammer toes are most common in people who have bunions or high-arched feet.

Discomfort from hammer toes is usually due to a build-up of hard skin over the raised joints, which causes corns and calluses. There’s also a risk of ulceration, but this isn’t common.

Mild cases may be helped by rubber, leather or silicone splints. You can ease pain from corns and calluses by choosing shoes with a more generous fit or softer uppers, or by using a protective pad over the painful area. The only way to correct hammer toes is with surgery.

Read more about hammer toes in our foot pain section.