Bunions and Hammertoes: How Are They Linked?

misc image

Bunions and hammertoes are two foot problems that tend to go together. Here’s more information about these conditions, why they often occur simultaneously, and what you can do about it.

Some medical problems occur in pairs, like chronic pain and depression or obesity and diabetes. You can also add bunions and hammertoes to the list of common comorbidities. 

Here, Dr. Matthew Cerniglia, our board-certified podiatric surgeon at Ankle and Foot Institute of Texas, explains this symbiotic relationship and what you can do if you find yourself dealing with both conditions simultaneously.

The differences between bunions and hammertoes

Before diving into the bunion-hammertoe combo, let’s look at each independently.


Bunions are common foot deformities that result in a painful bump at the base of your big toe. A bunion forms when your toe joint becomes unstable and doesn’t hold its position. The joint gradually becomes misaligned and shifts the direction of your big toe toward your other toes, causing the joint bone at the base of your toe to jut outward. 

Technically, a bunion is a joint dislocation caused by poor foot mechanics and/or ill-fitting shoes. The condition worsens over time and leads to pain and gait issues.


Hammertoes typically affect your three middle toes, locking the middle joint of the toe into a downward-bent position. It gets its name from the claw-like appearance that resembles a hammer when viewed from the side. 

Hammertoes occur when your toe muscles constrict and won’t relax. Eventually, the muscle shortens so the toe remains permanently bent, unable to straighten out. 

Arthritis, injury, a severely high foot arch, and ill-fitting shoes may cause hammertoes, but bunions are also common culprits. 

The bunion and hammertoe link

Having a second toe that’s longer than the rest puts you at risk of developing hammertoes because the abnormally long appendage crams into your shoes and forces it to curl. 

A bunion hooks your big toe sideways, effectively making it shorter than your other toes, creating the same conditions as those with naturally longer second toes.

Treating bunion-hammertoe combos

Dr. Cerniglia bases his treatment recommendations on factors like the severity of your symptoms and your degree of disability. In many cases, conservative treatments ease your symptoms and provide adequate relief.

That’s why he typically suggests starting your treatment with simple measures, such as wearing roomier shoes, applying spongy pads to your deformed joints, using over-the-counter pain medication, and participating in physical therapy to correct your foot mechanics.

However, surgical intervention is often the best solution for long-term relief. 

For bunions, Dr. Cerniglia removes inflamed and damaged tissue, including bone, from the joint and realigns the bones in your foot and toes. He’s well-versed in all types of bunionectomy and performs each with skill and precision. 

For hammertoes, the surgical procedure involves realigning the toe and lengthening the shortened tendon, often by using a section from the bottom of your foot. He may also fuse the joint with a pin or wire to keep it in the proper position as it heals. 

Don’t limp through life with bunions and hammertoes — see Dr. Cerniglia for lasting relief for these conditions and all of your foot problems. Call our Fort Worth, Texas, office or request an appointment online