The term hammer toe came from the way the toe hits or hammers on the floor with each step. Hammer toes are generally caused by a tendon imbalance in your toes and tight muscles in your feet. The discomfort from this and cramping in your toes can radiate to your entire foot and lower leg, and this might lead to posture and balance changes (affecting the way you walk). Often people will develop hammer toe from leaning too far forward causing the toes to grip the ground to keep them upright. People with hammer toe may also have difficulty finding comfortable shoes due to the pain they feel in their toes or feet. The toe first affected will generally be your longest toe and will only affect your middle three toes.
There is conflicting beliefs in the medical community whether or not shoes might be part of the cause of hammer toe. Shoes that narrow toward the toe may make your forefoot look smaller, but I believe they also push the smaller toes into a flexed (bent) position. The toes rub against the shoe, leading to the formation of corns and calluses, which further aggravate the condition. A higher heel forces the foot down and squishes the toes against the shoe, increasing the pressure and the bend in the toe. Eventually, the toe muscles become unable to straighten the toe, even when there is no confining shoe. Also, the chances of getting hammer toe increases from 2-20% as you age.
What can you do?
SHOES and FOOTWEAR
Make sure your shoes are:
Lots of room in the shoe box
Made out of breathable and flexible materials
Avoid vinyl or plastic materials
Cushioning or supportive items such as straps, non-medicated felt pads, moleskin, splints, toe shields or caps protect and reposition your toe and relieve pain. Talk to your doctor, podiatrist or chiropractor about corrective footwear, orthotics or other foot devices. These can provide support and alignment (check to see if you wear out the soles of your shoes on one side) You should also avoid super-snug stockings, nylons and socks.
MASSAGE and PAMPER
Professional massage, physical therapy, foot manipulation and reflexology are so very good for hammer toe. You could also give yourself a gentle foot massage after vigorous activities or long periods of standing. To take care of your corns and calluses you can soak your toes in alternating warm and cold water baths; gently rub your corns or calluses with a pumice stone or nail file while your feet are in warm water.
Exercises that stretch and strengthen your foot muscles and tendons keep your muscles balanced. Stretching your toes manually by taking each one individually and stretching them in all directions will help increase their flexibility. One exercise can be done by placing corks or foam separators between the toes and squeezing for 5-10 seconds, performing 10 repetitions. You can also use your toes to pick things up off the floor. While you watch television or read, you can put a towel flat under your feet and use your toes to crumple it. Another exercise involves stretching a thick rubber band around all five toes and stretching the band as wide as possible by flexing the toes outward. Repeat on each foot 10 times.
There you go folks, a lot of information about hammer toe. Believe it or not I pared it down. Thanks for reading PJ Harris, LMP http://www.pjharris.com/