How To Prevent Hammer Toe
Before we look at how to prevent Hammer Toe or how to treat it let's first take a look at what the condition is and how its caused.
Hammer Toe is a condition that usually affects the second toe (the toe next to the big toe) but similar conditions can also affect other toes. The 3rd and 4th toes can also become ‘hammered’ although this is less common. The condition causes the toe to become permanently bent at the lower joint resulting in a hammer shape. A similar condition known as Mallet Toe is caused by the same problem but affects the upper joint. It is almost always very painful and can be embarrassing as it often results in a bulge in the top of shoes or can be seen when wearing open footwear like sandals.
The cause of Hammer Toe is almost always poorly designed shoes and the biggest culprit is ladies heels. It is for this reason that most sufferers of Hammer Toe are women. It can however, also be caused by footwear that is to tight or does not offer enough space at the front in what is known as the toe box. For many people the second toe is longer than the big toe and this extra length can result in it taking on more pressure than it otherwise would when wearing poorly fitted shoes such as heels. This pressure slowly shortens the muscles in the toes resulting in the Hammer Toe bent shaped.
Other causes of Hammer Toe are Arthritis and diabetes and if you suffer from these conditions and are concerned about Hammer Toe you should see your doctor. Most of what we will refer to hear is the more general Hammer Toe condition caused by inappropriate footwear.
How To Prevent Hammer Toe
If you are concerned about Hammer Toe or think you may be seeing the early onset of the condition then you are in the perfect position to take some active steps in preventing it. So lets take a quick look at how to prevent hammer toe. Firstly, the most obvious thing to do is ensure you wear well fitted and sensible footwear. Sorry but I am pointing my finger squarely at heels here. These shoes are neither well designed or likely to be well fitted. The problem is that they are forcing much of your body weight onto the toes and most likely onto the second toe. If you are seriously concerned that you may be suffering from Hammer Toe then you probably need to stop wearing them, at least for the medium term. If however, you are just looking to avoid the problem and don’t show any signs of it at the moment then simply monitoring your 'heel time' might suffice. As with all things moderation is key and when it comes to heels it makes sense to only wear them when necessary and always make sure you rest your feet. Also ensure your shoes allow extra room to move at the front; generally half an inch is recommended.
Hammer Toe Surgery
Treating Hammer Toe
If your toe or toes are already showing signs of hammer toe then you may need to look into some of the treatment options available. There are a number of toe splints on the market that can help re-align the affected toe by reversing the damage that has already occurred. If your condition is particularly bad or has been around for a long time then surgery may be required, followed by the preventative measures above. Surgery is often painful and will probably keep you off your feet for a short time, so avoidance is always best. In the past surgery had always involved the placement of a wire to keep the toe straight, this was both uncomfortable and incapacitating. The wire would have to remain until the muscles had sufficiently heeled and then would be removed in a second procedure. These days there is the option of having a permanent implant placed in the toe to keep it straight and this is certainly the less painful, less incapacitating and more permanent solution. With this method there is no need to have it removed thus reducing the second procedure.
Another great way to prevent Hammer Toe is by exercising the affected foot. Try gently stretching the toe or use it to pickup small items. Doing this will help strengthen the damaged muscle and return it to it’s normal position.
The most important thing to do if you are concerned is to see your doctor, they will be able to refer you to a specialist if one is required.