Tips for Preventing Hammertoe

When you’re suffering from the pain of hammertoe, there’s little comfort in knowing that 60 million Americans share your condition. Most remain undiagnosed and untreated, and it’s estimated that only about 10% of sufferers have surgery in any given year.  

Left untreated, severe hammertoe can shut down your daily life, with pain and mobility issues as well as its unsightly cosmetic appearance. There are steps you can take to help prevent or relieve hammertoe, but if it’s too late for you, there’s no reason to live with the result. The foot specialists at Progressive Podiatry have four locations across Brooklyn, New York City, to examine and treat your hammertoe problems.

The reasons behind hammertoe

Hammertoe and its close relative mallet toe result from deformities of toe joints. Hammertoe affects the middle joint and mallet toe the first joint, closest to your toenail. A third condition, called clawtoe, involves both joints. Most often, it’s the inner toes that see these abnormalities, not the big toe or baby toe.

Muscles, tendons, and ligaments, the soft tissues that support the alignment of your toe joints, can go out of balance, usually pulling the toe up and to one side, giving it the characteristic hammertoe shape. This may result from an injury, such as jamming, stubbing, or fracturing a toe. Tight shoes that crowd your toes can also contribute, particularly if your toes can’t rest flat. Toe muscle imbalance can also destabilize normal joint alignment.

Preventing hammertoe

Keeping your toes straight and in proper alignment typically comes down to appropriate footwear. Shoes offer protection against injury, particularly important in a factory environment, for example, to combat increased risk of foot injury.


Shoes with a wide and deep toe box allow your toes to function normally, and those that also have good arch support can slow the development of hammertoe and other deformities. When you choose style, foot and toe position can be compromised, so minimizing your time in heels and other footwear that cramps your toes or raises your heel will help.

A power tip for buying shoes that fit well is to shop later in the day, since your feet tend to be at their largest then. Most people have one foot slightly larger than the other, so choose fit based on the bigger foot.

Shoe accessories

If you’ve been prescribed orthotics, use them, since they help promote proper foot position with good arch supports. Over-the-counter cushioning pads and supports may help too, but keep in mind they aggravate the fit of a shoe that’s already small.

Check your feet

People with diabetes already know that foot inspections are important to keep small problems from becoming major. Checking your feet regularly for signs of deformity can help you manage hammertoe before it becomes painful.

Promote blood circulation by putting your feet up regularly, and if you spend lots of time sitting during the day, take frequent breaks to walk and stretch. This movement aids the return of blood to your heart and lungs. Indulge in foot baths or massages for even more preventive indulgence.

Our physicians at Progressive Podiatry are ready to help when your hammertoe condition advances beyond your self-care efforts. You can schedule an appointment with us using our handy online booking tool or you can call the office closest to you. Contact us at Progressive Podiatry today, and keep on your toes. 

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