When the toe of a foot gets bent on the middle of the digit, there arises a condition that is commonly referred to as Hammer toe. This condition targets the second, third and fifth toe of the foot most often. However, it should clearly not be confused with another condition known as "mallet toe", which is just a condition on the upper joint of a digit.
People, who wear high heels or footwear that ill fits around the toe box, or something similar, are the ones who are affected the most by these conditions. This does not mean that well structured heels don't cause problems, because the foot is still crammed into the box of the shoe and that's because of the extreme angle of the foot. The culprit is the toe that gets forced against the shoe, and this causes the hammer toes to rise. Inheritance also plays a role in Hammer toes as do injury to the foot, diabetic neuropathy, or arthritis or strokes.
As a result of the protruding joints rubbing against the shoe, calluses or corns can develop and there is the possibility of deforming as well as pain while walking, which are a direct consequence of Hammer toes. When you indulge in physical activities with weight upon your feet, you can experience pain and difficulty in walking, also, it means that trying out other footwear would pose a hindrance because of the deformity of the foot.
If debilitating occurs, which is your difficulty in walking and regular activities, or if the pain becomes chronic enough, with the toes developing a clenched, claw like appearance, it is highly recommended that you enlist the services of a doctor. Another difficulty with hammer toes is that while initially flexible, the tendons of the toe eventually harden out and this directly makes the treatment of hammer toes all the more difficult.
One of the first steps to treating the hammer toe is changing the footwear, and the use of foot orthotics ensures that the feet are always placed in the most appropriate way to reduce pressure on the awkward areas. The same goes for shoes; they should not restrict the foot and should have at least an inch of spacing between the foot and the shoe wall. Also recommended is the simple fact that feet and toes must be stretched as an exercise so as to make the crooked digits more strong in muscle and tendons, so that they do not stiffen.
There are conservative treatments that do not involve surgery and they do take time, but they are most definitely recommended, but there are severe cases where the toe does not respond to the traditional methods and for them surgery is the only option. Rest assured that you won't need to stay at the hospital no matter what the severity of the hammer toe and the corresponding surgery may be. You need to stop certain activities after the surgery is done for several weeks, and there might be swelling that pains and stiffness too, with the toe appearing longer or shorter than the original. But that's about it
You are better off with conservative treatments and other non surgical methods to cure the hammer foot, such as exercises and stretching. Surgery is only recommended in extreme cases where there's no way out.