Diabetes and Hammertoes: Understanding the Link

Diabetes and Hammertoes: Understanding the Link

You might already know that diabetes can cause problems in your feet, from slow-healing ulcers to nerve damage that leaves you with less feeling in your feet. But the issues don’t stop there. Your high blood sugar levels can feed into other podiatric problems.

Those include hammertoe, a condition that causes your toe to bend downward instead of laying flat. If you’ve noticed that one of your toes doesn’t extend straight out even when you’re at rest, you likely have this condition. 

We can help. At Greater Pittsburgh Foot & Ankle Center in Wexford, Pennsylvania, William T. DeCarbo, DPM, FACFAS, and our team specialize in treating hammertoe. We can help you prevent the issues that can arise if you’re living with both this foot condition and diabetes. 

First, though, let’s take a closer look at how these two conditions connect.

How diabetes plays a role in hammertoe

The biggest reasons that people with diabetes have a heightened risk for hammertoe comes from the nerve damage (i.e., neuropathy) that diabetes can cause. Your sustained high blood sugar levels take a toll on your nerves, commonly damaging the nerves in your feet. As a result, a lot of people with diabetes have less sensation in their feet than the average person. 


Your feet hurting less might actually sound nice. But the pain that comes with your feet rubbing in your shoes is your body’s alert system. A blister or other uncomfortable spot tells you that your feet aren’t in a good position.

When you have diabetes, that warning system can break down. As a result, you might not know that your toes are cramped in your shoes. Over time, though, scrunching your toes up in the ends of your shoes can cause an imbalance in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of your toes. You might be left with hammertoe as a result. 

Key hammertoe treatments if you have diabetes

If you have diabetes and you’ve noticed that your toe doesn’t lay flat, you should implement two lifestyle changes.

First, make it a habit to check your feet — and especially your problem toe — regularly. Neuropathy could mean you develop open sores without feeling them. Left unchecked, those diabetic ulcers are the cause of the foot amputations you may have heard about.

Secondly, choose shoes with plenty of room in the toe box. This will help you toe lay as flat as possible and prevent your hammertoe from getting worse. 

We can also help. Whether you need guidance on the right shoes or you want to treat your hammertoe with an option like orthotics or splinting, we’re here. 

To get the care your feet need,  call our office or book your appointment online