What is hammer toe?
Hammer toe is when one of your toes starts to curl up instead of lay flat. The top of the toe will bend downward instead of being at the top of your toe. When this happens, a corn may form on the toe. The corn is formed because the top of the toe is rubbing on the top of your shoe. In the picture above, the second toe on the right foot shows the corn.
How did I develop hammer toe?
There are a few reasons why a person can develop a hammer toe. It can be caused by heredity. If you remember that your Mother or Father had a hammertoe then there is a possibility that you could have inherited the same foot structure. Or it could be that it is just the way the bones in your feet were formed.
They type of shoes that you wear can also be the culprit. If you wear shoes that are too tight and have a narrow toe box, your feet may have developed hammer toe in response to your shoes.
Hammer toes are usually the second, third or fourth toe. If you have multiple hammer toes on one foot, then you need to go to the doctor. Having multiple hammer toes is an indication of a nerve or spine issue that needs to be addressed.
What do I do to correct hammer toe?
The first thing you need to determine is if your toe can flex. Hammer toe is a progressive problem that if ignored may lead to the toe becoming inflexible. So, if you think that you see a hammer toe issue starting, it is best to try the following ideas. If you have ignored your hammer toe (sounds like you are related to me), you need to try the following to see if you can do the exercises and gain more flexibility.
You need to check your shoes. Make sure you wear shoes that have plenty of room for your toes. Your toes need to be able to lay flat. Also a lower heeled shoe will not put as much pressure on your toes.
You might want to put a corn pad on your affected toe to protect it from rubbing against your shoes. And if you have a callus on the bottom of your foot, you might want to put a cushioning pad in your shoe.
You can do toe exercises. Yes, I said toe exercises. Sounds funny, right? But your toes may have lost some of their flexibility and you need to coax them back into having full movement. These exercises are fairly easy and great to do while you watch TV or while you are talking on the telephone.
The first exercise you might want to try is just to bend your toes forward. That is right just put your foot up and flex your toes forward and hold that position for 10 seconds. Do this 10 times. If it is easy or when it gets easy, increase the time that you flex gradually building up to 30 seconds and 30 repetitions.
The next exercise is my favorite. Put a towel or washcloth on the floor. Put your foot on the edge and crinkle your toes until you have the whole towel under your foot. Just use your toes to grab and move the towel. A variation on this would be to use your toes to pick up the towel. The basic idea is to stretch your foot muscles.
If you have a marble (I mean the round glass variety not the ones in your head) you can put it on the floor and pick it up with your toes. That is another good stretch for your foot muscles.
My hammer toe won’t move.
This is a bigger problem. It is time for you to go to your friendly local podiatrist. The doctor can x ray your foot and look at your bone structure and discuss options with you. It may be that you need a different course of physical therapy or it may take surgery to correct the bone structure. You and the doctor can discuss the best way to proceed for you.
Before you go to the doctor, you will want to check to make sure your shoes are not aggravating the situation and you might want to start wearing corn pad and padded insole. You may find some relief by taking those steps.