Tips for Preventing Hammertoe

You probably don’t think about your toes too often. Maybe you get a pedicure now and then, or you notice that new shoes pinch your toes, but probably most of the time, you just rely on your toes to do their work. However, if your toes bend, or contract, without your effort — an involuntary contracture — you may have hammertoe. Our podiatrists at Optima Foot and Ankle in Bend and Redmond, Oregon, have seen plenty of cases of hammertoe, and we can help.

Why some people get hammertoe

Like most things, hammertoe can be a genetic issue, so there’s not much you can do. Similarly, if you get injured, you may develop hammertoe, and you’d avoid injury if you could. However, sometimes hammertoe is avoidable. Choosing the right shoes is the key to preventing strain on the muscles and ligaments of your toes. The following tips should help you choose footwear that protects your toes instead of making hammertoe more likely.

Style matters

We’re not here to convince you the ugliest shoe is the best shoe, but you definitely should be aware that sometimes the most fashionable option may not be the healthiest one. You want to look great, of course, but not at the cost of hurting your feet. A shoe with a toe box that’s too narrow is the worst for your foot. Narrow, pointed wing tips and tight stilettos aren’t going to do good things for your feet. Look for shoes that have a boxy toe area so your toes have some room to move.

Size also matters

You know your shoe size, right? Probably without even thinking about it. But, it may not actually be accurate. Here are a few problems with shoe sizes:

  • Shoe manufacturers use different measurements to determine shoe sizes
  • Shoes of the same size can be smaller, bigger, wider, or narrower
  • Your right and left feet are different sizes, but a pair of shoes is the same size
  • Your feet get bigger as you get older
  • Your foot size changes during pregnancy

Choosing the same size shoe regardless of brand, or more importantly, regardless of how the shoes fit, is not the best approach. Instead, consider measuring your feet for each new pair you buy, or better yet, try on shoes prior to purchase and see how they feel.

Hammertoe prevention while shoe shopping

Along with making sure your new shoes fit by measuring your feet and trying on new shoes, you may want to do these things to prevent hammertoe:

  • Shop in the evening, when your feet are likely to be a little swollen
  • Wear the same socks you expect to wear regularly with the shoes you’re buying
  • Check to see if there’s at least half an inch between the end of your longest toe and the shoe
  • Settle the ball of your foot in the widest part of the shoe to make sure it’s comfortable
  • Check to see how the arch support feels
  • Don’t buy shoes expecting them to stretch

Even with the best, roomiest, most comfortable shoes, your feet deserve a bit of extra love. Treat them to occasional soaks in warm water with Epsom salt, prop them up, and splurge on a foot massage once in a while.

What if you already have hammertoe?

All hope isn’t lost if you already have hammertoe. It’s sometimes possible to reverse the condition.  You probably have already guessed the first thing you need to do: Make sure you’re wearing proper shoes. Our providers may also suggest using custom orthotics or splints to help straighten your toes. In some instances, surgery is the best approach to correcting hammertoe.

If you’d like to learn more about preventing or treating hammertoe, call or request an appointment online at either location of Optima Foot and Ankle. We’re always happy to help you live with pain-free feet!

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