You rely on your toes more than you realize, so when something goes sideways with your toes, it gets your full attention. Bunions, corns, and calluses are just a few of the toe woes you may face in your lifetime, not the least of which is hammertoe, an involuntary contracture of the joint.
The odd name makes a lot of sense when you see one — your toe bends at the center joint, often at a right angle, and mimics the look of its unmistakable namesake.
At Advanced Foot, Ankle, & Wound Specialists, PA, our team of expert podiatrists see hammertoes often. Although it’s not particularly common, neither is hammertoe rare: about 29.5 million people in the US, about 9% of the population, suffer from it. For those who live in Florida, we help by straightening out their toes and delivering much-needed relief from the pain.
While some cases of hammertoe occur due to factors beyond your control, like genetics, injuries, and illnesses such as diabetes, many cases are completely preventable. And the avoidable causes all come down to the shoes you wear, because hammertoe happens when the muscles and ligaments in your toe become strained. Here are our best tips for choosing shoes that keep hammertoe at bay.
Be a style master
Whether you have a great sense of fashion or just follow those who do, you may be choosing shoes that boost your image while harming your feet. The style of shoe that’s best for your toes may or may not be stylish, but they can help you avoid hammertoe and other foot problems.
The worst type of shoe is the one that crams your foot into a narrow toe box, which means you need to give up your pointed wing-tips and your tight stilettos. Instead, go for a square or boxy toe that gives your feet some wiggle room.
Mind your size
If someone asked you your shoe size, you’d probably come back with a quick response: I’m an 8, or I’m a 12. But this can get you into trouble. Here are the many problems with shoe sizes:
- Every shoe manufacturer uses different measurements
- Some shoes run small, big, wide, or narrow
- Your feet are different sizes, but the shoes are the same (buy the pair that fits your bigger foot)
- Your feet grow as you age
- Feet grow during pregnancy
Never assume you know your size. It’s best to measure your feet each time you go shoe shopping, but in the end, the only measurement that counts is the one that measures your comfort level in that shoe.
Shopping for shoes that prevent hammertoe
In addition to sizing, there are several other factors that come into play when you’re trying to prevent hammertoe. Here’re a few tips:
- Shop at the end of the day when your feet are slightly swollen
- Wear the socks you plan to wear with the shoes you’re buying
- Make sure there’s at least half an inch of space in front of your longest toe
- The ball of your foot should settle comfortably into the widest part of the shoe
- Pay attention to arch support, especially if you have flat feet
- If it’s too tight in the store, walk away; it won’t stretch to fit later
Even if you have the perfect shoes, you still need to give your feet some love at the end of the day to prevent hammertoe. Maintaining good circulation is key, so soak them in warm water with epsom salts, elevate them, and get a foot massage if you can.
What to do if you already have hammertoe
If you’re reading this a little too late, and you already have hammertoe, chances are you can reverse it by making a few simple lifestyle changes, which start with — you guessed it — your shoes.
But we can also prescribe custom orthotics to slip inside your shoes, and splints that can straighten even the most stubborn toes.
If your hammertoe is severe, you may need surgery to correct it. But if that’s the case, your toes are in good hands here at Advanced Foot, Ankle, & Wound Specialists, PA. Our board-certified podiatric surgeons bring a wealth of skill and knowledge to the procedure and can have you walking around pain-free in no time.
To find out more about preventing or treating hammertoe, contact us at any of our six locations throughout Florida or request an appointment using our convenient online booking tool and step into the New Year with straighter toes.