Career men and women. Style gurus. Arthritic patients. They are all likely sufferers of hammertoes. These deformities do not happen overnight, but you may notice them one day as you go to clip your toenails or put on new shoes. The toes seem to be bent into a tented shape, and stretching out the toes doesn’t necessarily help to straighten them out. How did it happen?
First, let’s clarify: What are hammertoes?
● Hammertoes are characterized by deformed toes that make an upside-down “V” when you look at them from the side. The toe joint closer to the rest of the foot is usually the one affected, but both can become bent.
● Over time, hammertoes can develop because there is an imbalance in the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, or ligaments) that usually allow the toes to be straight or curl as needed.
● They usually occur on the second, third, and fourth toes.
● The bent nature of the toe can lead to painful corns developing at the top of the joint, due to friction from shoes.
Next, let’s talk about: What causes hammertoes?
● Toe injury – A traumatic sports injury, a bad stub, or a broken toe can cause soft tissue imbalance.
● Ill-fitting shoes – People who wear shoes that are too tight or too small can force the toes into shapes that are not natural. Long-term wear of these shoes can cause the toes to bend into hammertoes, even when they are not in shoes.
● Arthritis – When arthritis attacks the joints of the feet and toes, they can cause the toe deformity.
● Tight tendons and ligaments in the feet – Some have hereditary traits of tight tendons and ligaments in the feet, which can cause the toes to contract, usually to provide balance and support to the feet.
● A Side effect of a bunion – A bunion deformity (in the big toe joint) can cause the big toe to push against the second toe, pressuring against the toe joint to lift up.
Finally, let’s learn about: How can you prevent hammertoes from developing, and how do you stop them from getting worse?
● Toe exercises – Before symptoms of hammertoes set in, do some toe exercises while you sit and eat dinner or watch TV. Stretching them and curling them will be beneficial to your toe health.
● Don’t wear tight shoes too long or too often. With some fashion trends including pointy-toed shoes, or pressure for feet to seem smaller or larger, your toes go through a lot to fit in.
● When you notice that hammertoes are developing, buy wider shoes, try physical therapy for your toes, and use padding for any corns that might be causing you pain. These measures should help you prevent further pain and discomfort.