A hammertoe can sideline athletes and nonathletes alike. Hammertoes happen when the muscles and tendons in your toes become unbalanced or weakened. This can put pressure on your middle toe joint, causing it to bend. A hammertoe is more than a cosmetic bend in your toe: it causes calluses, sores, burning sensations, and pain when wearing shoes. Open sores can be especially problematic if you have diabetes.
Here at the Diabetic Foot and Wound Center in Bakersfield, California, we’re experts when it comes to diagnosing and treating hammertoe, but we also want to help you avoid the condition altogether, if possible.
Below, our medical team shares tips for preventing this painful condition.
3 strategies for preventing hammertoes
Ruben Nieto, DPM, and our team may suggest any of the following prevention strategies:
1. Choose the right pair of shoes
Choosing the right pair of shoes can go a long way in preventing many foot conditions, including blisters, bunions, and hammertoes.
When selecting your shoes, keep these tips in mind:
- Avoid any shoes that pinch your toes
- Choose shoes with a low-to-no heel
- Choose shoes with plenty of room in the toe box
- Always double-check the size (not all brands’ sizes are consistent with each other)
- Ensure your shoes have adequate arch support
Finally, wear the right shoes for your selected activity — wear cleats when playing soccer, running shoes while jogging, and cross-trainers when cross-training. If your shoes are worn out, replace them with a new pair.
2. Schedule your shoe shopping later in the day
Need new shoes? It’s always recommended to try on your shoes before buying them since you might, for example, wear a size 8 in one brand 一 but a size 8.5 in another. If you have one foot that’s bigger than the other (many people do!), buy the size that fits your bigger foot. Trying to cram your bigger foot into the smaller shoe can increase your risk of foot problems.
In addition to receiving a professional fitting, it’s important to take notice of when you schedule your shoe shopping trip. Avoid buying shoes first thing in the morning. Your feet naturally swell over the course of the day, and you want to ensure that your new shoes fit perfectly at all hours of the day, not just in the morning.
If shoes aren’t comfortable when you first try them on, take a pass. Shoes should be comfortable from the get-go; don’t assume they’ll stretch later.
3. Stretch your feet
Stretching is an important part of your daily exercise routine. Stretching helps to warm up your muscles and helps you avoid sports injuries. Stretching your feet and toes can also help relax the muscles and ligaments in your feet.
Not sure how to stretch your feet? Toe stretches are simple, and you can easily sneak them into your day, even if you’re sitting at your desk. Here are some stretches to try:
- Raise your toes, point your toes, and curl them under
- Flex and point your feet
- Rotate your ankles in circles
- Splay your toes as wide apart as possible
- Move each of your toes individually (or at least try to)
- Pick up small items (a washcloth or a marble) with your toes
Even with these preventive strategies, it’s still possible to develop hammertoe. Arthritis, flat feet, high arches, bunions, and nerve damage can all contribute to hammertoe, even if you stretch and wear the right shoes. That being said, early intervention can help you improve the functionality of your toes so you can walk comfortably.
Get treatment if you spot the signs of hammertoe
If your affected toe is still capable of moving at the joint, you might find that daily stretching provides some relief. Orthotics and wearing the proper shoes can also keep your feet comfortable. However, if you can’t bend your toe at the joint, surgery may be the right solution for you.
If a hammertoe is keeping you from walking comfortably, call Dr. Nieto at 661-238-7526. You can also request an appointment via our online scheduling tool.