Nonsurgical treatments for hammer toe include massage, cold applications and medication, advises WebMD. Roomier footwear, orthotics, pads and foot exercises also help, according to Mayo Clinic. If these interventions are unsuccessful, surgery is performed on the tendons or bones involved.
A light toe massage and applying an ice pack are short-term treatments for pain, WebMD suggests. Cold also helps reduce swelling. Cortisone injections and anti-inflammatory drugs reduce soreness and inflammation, observes the American Podiatric Medical Association.
Proper footwear for hammer toes is comfortable, and the toe box is wide and high, WebMD reports. The longest toe is 1/2 inch away from the end of the shoe, and heels higher than 2 inches are avoided.
Pads and inserts realign the hammer toe, Mayo Clinic states. Custom-made orthotic inserts sometimes keep hammer toes from becoming more serious, APMA says. Hammer-toe pads surround the affected joint, reducing pressure, and gel pads reduce shoe irritation, notes WebMD. Exercises such as picking up marbles with the toes help make the toes stronger and more flexible.
If all else fails, surgery is an option. Sometimes a doctor cuts the tendon, which relaxes the toe, Mayo Clinic discloses. In other cases, small pieces of bone are taken out to reposition the toe.