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Top 4 Best Products for Hammer Toe Pain

Updated: Nov 18, 2023

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A hammer toe is one of the most common toe deformities seen in feet. Out of your five toes, the 2nd through 5th toe have three bones in each toe. To keep all toes straight is a delicate balance between small muscles and tendons, in and around your toe and foot. If for any reason, the balance of these muscles is thrown off, changes or deformities in toes can be seen, one of these being developing a hammer toe.

Top 4 Best Products for Hammer Toe Pain

What hammer toes look like:

hammer toe pads

This is the common look of a hammer toe. Numbers 1, 2, and 3 are different joints in the toe. A hammer toe is seen when the toe is bent at joint #2.

Why do hammer toes develop:

  • History of a toe injury - Having a history of a broken or sprained toe increases your risk of developing hammer toe

  • Wearing tight shoes - Consistently wearing shoes that are too tight, or too small increases your risk of developing a hammer toe. Muscles and tendons in your toes become weakened over time by wearing shoes that are not the correct size.

  • Having a flatfoot or no arch - One of the jobs that toes have is to help grip the ground when we walk. Having a flat foot makes the toes work much harder to grip the ground, which increases the risk of hammer toes happening.

  • Having a high arch - Pes cavus is the medical term given to a high arch foot. High-arched feet and hammertoes more often than not are seen together. Again, if the toes are unable to grip the ground correctly, a hammer toe can happen.

  • Having a bunion - When a person with a bunion walks, there will be increased pressure under the main joint for the 2nd toe, instead of the joint for the first toe. This joint in your 2nd toe was never designed to take the majority of the force when walking, which can lead to joint damage, dislocation of the 2nd toe, and a hammer toe forming here.

  • Diseases such as Diabetes, Peripheral neuropathy. History of Stroke or Brain Injury - Diabetes, Peripheral neuropathy (a type of nerve damage seen in the feet), previous stroke, or brain injury all can affect the nerves to your feet and toes. If proper signals can't reach your feet because of any of the above reasons, muscles in your feet and toes will shrink, known as atrophy. Muscle atrophy can cause hammer toes to form.

Why does my hammer toe hurt?

Hammer toe pain can happen for many different reasons. Because of the shape that a hammer toe has, when you walk, the tip of your toe tends to hit the ground, instead of the bottom of your toe.

This is an issue because the tip of the toes were not designed to take this much pressure in the way that the bottom of a toe does. There is less fat, and less padding at the top of your toe, which over time can lead to pain.

Some people will even start to develop a callus at the tip of their toe which can add to the pain. A corn on top of the hammer toe can also form, due to this joint rubbing against the inside of shoes. In people with poor circulation or diabetes, these calluses can then turn into wounds or ulcers.

This is very dangerous because if the wound is not treated in time, infection can set in, and increase the risk of amputation.

Arthritis in hammer toes and other kinds of bent toes can be a cause of pain as well. Whenever joints move in ways that they were not designed to, arthritis can develop. Arthritis in a hammer toe can make the toe stiff or rigid.

My favorite products for hammer toe pain, as a foot doctor

Not everyone with a hammer toe will have pain, but some people may. If your hammer toe is not causing an ulcer, or if you are just not ready to commit to hammer toe surgery, non-surgical options are perfectly fine to use.

The name of the game when managing a hammer toe at home is padding and protection. By removing pressure from any areas in on a hammer toe that can potentially cause problems like calluses, corns, and even ulcers.

These are the exact products that I use on my patients, at my clinic, or if I don't carry them in the office, will recommend that they buy them.

Note: No pad can straighten a hammer toe permanently. There is one product that I recommended below that if your toe isn't stiff or rigid, that will temporarily straighten the hammer toe only while it is being worn. Once the pad is taken off the toe will return to the hammer toe shape.

1. Slippos Crest Pads

Slippos is my go-to brand for many types of pads for different foot problems. Their crest or shrimp pads are no different. How this work is that you would put your hammer toe through the elastic loop, with the pad being against the bottom of your toe, so that when you walk the pad also will hit the ground. Gently from the bottom, of the pad, pull on the elastic tab, and that will temporarily straighten your toe.

Your toe being straighter, also means that it is flatter which can lower your risk of corns, calluses, or ulcers to your toe. Crest pads do come in left or right, so it's important to buy them for the proper side. For example, if you have a right foot hammer toe, then buy a right foot crest pad and vice versa.

2. Toe Sleeves

Toe Sleeves are great because they can be cut custom to the length of your toe so that you get the perfect fit. Toe sleeves for hammer toes also come in many different sizes as well, so they will fit toes of many sizes. Some of my patients even like to hand wash their fabric toe sleeves to keep them clean and fresh, and ready for continued wear.

3. Gel Toe Caps

Gel toe caps a great because they produce delicate skin at the tip of your toe, and also the top of your toe, two common areas where corns, calluses, or ulcers, can form in people with hammertoes. ZenToes Gel Toe Caps are great because they come in 3 different sizes, small, medium, and large which will fit all types of toes. Gel toe caps are a great option for hammer toes with arthritis that are stiff, or rigid.

4. Lamb's Wool

Lamb's wool is a product that has been used in podiatry for decades but for good reason. It is very cheap and very simple to use. You want to take a piece of lamb's wool from the package and place it around the hammer toe. If one or more toes are rubbing together, weaving the lamb's wool between each toe can work wonders for foot pain, and prevention of corns, calluses, and ulcers.

Disclaimer: As with anything placed on your feet, be sure to check if the pad is too tight on your toe. If you notice that your toe is beginning to change colors, or becoming numb, if there is pain, remove the pad at once, and see care at your local podiatrist.

That is it, folks. My top 4 products for painful hammer toes. I hope this post helped you out today. Feel free to leave a comment to let me know your thoughts, or experiences with hammer toes.

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Looking for a foot doctor in the Phoenix metro area? My name is Dr. Tarr, and I am the owner of Direct Podiatry Arizona in Tempe, AZ. To view available appointment times, click the link here:

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