When the muscles around the base of the toe joints get out of balance and misaligned, the toes can abnormally contract and bend in such a way they can become painful, red, and corns can form on high pressure joints of the affected toes. Hammertoes generally create a bend downward at the middle joints; over time the joint becomes frozen in place and crooked.

Hereditary misalignment such as flat feet or high arch put you at risk for developing hammer toes. Other risks include tight footwear, neurologic disease, or an old injury to a toe. Early-stage hammer toes can be treated with arch supports (metatarsal support), while more advanced deformities may require soft tissue surgery, boney fusion of joints, or both.