A hammer toe is a crooked toe that is painful because the first knuckle of the toe sticks up and rubs on the toe box of the shoe.

A mallet toe is a toe in which the last joint is bent downward at a right angle so that the tip of the toe is pushed into the sole of the shoe.

A claw toe is a toe that is bent at both joints so that it is shaped like a claw.

Pain in the ball of the foot is common with hammertoes and claw toes. Each of these deformities occurs because of muscle imbalance of the toe. Muscle imbalance can occur because of age, wearing high fashion shoes, and rarely, certain nerve diseases.


The first thing to do for these deformities is to wear roomy shoes with cushioned soles and a deep toe box to reduce the pressure on the prominent knuckle(s). If there is pain in the ball of the foot, a pad can be placed in the shoe to “off load” the painful area. See our Metatarsalgia information. If wearing roomy shoes does not relieve pain, surgery can be considered. The toe is surgically straightened. Usually a metal pin is placed in the toe to keep it stiff and straight while it is healing.

Outpatient Surgery: Claw, Mallet and Hammertoe removal surgery is performed in a free-standing out patient surgery center or hospital. Usually patients go home one to two hours after surgery when they are awake, eating, drinking, and using the restroom without difficulty. Typically, pain pills are started before you go home, often before pain is experienced. After surgery, the foot is covered with a bulky, compressive bandage. It is common to see blood on the bandage and it may seem like a lot of blood! But it isn’t. Blood spreads out as it is absorbed by the cotton gauze bandage – much like a drop of water spreads out on a paper towel. Do not worry about blood on the bandage. If the presence of blood bothers you, call the office and we will arrange a time for you to come in for the bandage to be changed.

After Surgery Care

Please review your after surgery care instructions and our general after surgery care page. If you experience any issues or have questions related to your surgery call us immediately! If a pin is in the toe, it needs to be cleansed several times a day with hydrogen peroxide to remove all drainage.

The pin is removed in the office 4-6 weeks post op. Removing the pin causes a minimal amount of pain that goes away in a couple of minutes.

Risks of Surgery

Occasionally complications or problems such as the following occur during or after surgery. With every surgery there are general risks. Some specific risks of this surgery are:

Infection: Risk of surgical infection is less than 1%. Antibiotics are given just before surgery to prevent infection. Pin tract infection is a little more common, but is easily treated with more vigorous cleansing and sometimes antibiotic pills.

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