Your toes are permanent roommates and if you’ve ever had a roommate, you know that people who live in close proximity need their space. Your toes are no different! When you crowd your toes by wearing pointed-toe shoes, high heels that put pressure on the front of the toes, or any shoe with a narrow toe box, it can lead to a hammertoe. What is a hammertoe? I’m glad you asked…
A hammertoe is an abnormal bend in the middle joint of a toe. It most often occurs in the second, third, and fourth toes. When your toes are curled under for extended periods of time, they begin to hold that shape. It may become painful to stretch or manipulate the toe and secondary issues such as blisters, corns, and calluses can arise. Improperly fitting shoes are a huge factor in the development of hammertoes. They are also more likely to develop in toes that have experienced a trauma, such as a bad break, jam, or stub. There are some genetic risk factors too, so let your podiatrist know if you have a family history of hammertoes (even if you haven’t developed one yourself). Arthritis and muscle imbalances are also causes of hammertoes.
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Women are more susceptible than men and the chances of developing this condition increase as you age. If your second toe is longer than your big toe, you will need to pay particular attention to the way your shoes fit and give extra space. Your shoes may also become uncomfortable due to corns or calluses that form on the bump of the toe. Use a pumice stone to reduce calluses and put a silicone or moleskin pad on the toe to avoid further rubbing.
Time is of the essence with a hammertoe. If treatment begins as soon as the toe begins to bend (when it’s still moveable), the condition can often be halted with simple methods such as toe exercises, roomier shoes, toe splints, or orthotics. If you allow your hammertoe to go untreated until it is fixed into position, which is what about 50% of our patients do, a surgical solution may be your only option. Your podiatrist might release or reposition the tendons and ligaments holding the toe curled or use pins and bone fusions to correct the bend.
The best thing you can do for your feet is to wear the proper shoes and make an appointment with the FAAWC immediately when you notice a hammertoe developing. We’re here to help.
READ MORE: Quick Tips for the Shoe Store