Common Foot Surgeries: Bunions, Hammertoes, and Claw Toes

It is often impossible to know how critical healthy feet are to a well-functioning body and overall health until you are suffering from a foot injury. When your foot or feet are painful, uncomfortable, or not functioning properly it affects the entire body, as well as normal life.  While undergoing surgery is the last resort for foot injuries or maladies, often it is a necessity. At OSSM, Dr. Scott Brown frequently sees patients in need of various foot surgeries. He is a fellowship trained foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon, and is well equipped to treat foot injuries or maladies from all walks of life.

There are many causes of foot injury, and just as many types of surgeries to treat them. Three common maladies that we treat with foot surgeries are bunions, claw toes, and hammer toes.


Bunions are a common condition that many live with for years before seeking help. A bunion is a bony protrusion that forms at the joint where your big toe meets you foot, called the first metatarsophalangeal joint, or MTP for short.  The big toe begins to lean in towards the rest of the toes, resulting in an often painful bony bump that forms at the joint. Stiffness of the joint as well as swelling and pain can make bunions miserable to deal with.

The most common cause of bunions is ill-fitting shoes that are too narrow. Shoes that force the big toe in towards the others due to a tight or narrow fit are the main culprits for causing bunions to form. A Bunionectomy or bunion removal is a common surgery that removes bunions safely and effectively. 

Bunion removal can look different for each patient depending on patient anatomy, how extensively involved the bunion is, and joint health. At times it is appropriate to solely remove the bunion, while other surgeries may involve realigning the first MTP joint as well as removing the bunion. Screws or metal plates may also be used, depending on the disease of the joint and necessity to stabilize.

While recovery time is individualized and dependent on how extensive the surgery was, on average recovery can take from 6 to 8 weeks. Full recuperation is often 4 to 6 months after surgery.

Claw Toes and Hammertoes:

A claw toe is a condition that sounds exactly like its name: the toe joints bend abnormally into a claw-like shape.  The proximal interphalangeal (middle) and distal phalangeal (end) joints of the toe. Regular function of the foot can be negatively impacted by a claw toe, and it can be very uncomfortable for the patient, often causing painful rubbing on shoes.

A Hammertoe is similar to a claw toe, although instead of the last two joints affected, only the middle toe joint, or the proximal interphalangeal (PIP for short) is deformed. Surgical intervention is recommended when the hammertoe is no longer flexible, and most become fixed overtime. Due to the abnormal bend in the toe, a hammertoe can cause painful rubbing on shoes, forming calluses or inflamed areas.

Hammertoes and claw toes are caused by an imbalance of the tendons, ligaments, and muscles that move the toe and keep it in place. There can be many factors that at the root of hammertoe, such as well as ill-fitting shoes, muscle or tendon malfunction, or trauma to the joint. Claw toe can have similar causes, but can also be a result of nerve damage due to Diabetes or other underlying health conditions.

There are several options for surgery to fix a hammertoe or claw toe, which Dr. Brown performs based on the individual patient’s needs.  For hammertoes at times, it is enough to lengthen the tendons responsible for causing the deformation, or a tendon transfer may be indicated. PIP joint fusion or shortening of the bone may also be the best procedure to remedy the problem. For claw toe, the surgery involves more joints than hammertoe so is slightly more involved.

Recovery takes at least several non-weight bearing weeks, and is dependent on the individual patient and procedure.


We cannot stress enough the importance of proper footwear in preventing bunions, claw toes, or hammertoes. Footwear must fit properly, and sizing may need to be determined by a professional. Shoes must not cause the toes to bend in a painful or unnatural way, or push the toes in together. Prevention and early detection are key, as well as choosing proper footwear after surgery to maintain healthy feet.

You do not have to live with painful or uncomfortable feet any longer. We have an outstanding team of doctors at Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine that are fellowship trained and can meet any orthopedic need. Call us today at (208)664-2175 and we can get you back on your feet in no time.

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Claw and Hammer Toes:

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