A hammertoe is a mild deformity that usually affects the middle toes.  The condition is characterized by the large knuckle of the effected toe pushing up towards the top of the shoe.  If the smaller knuckle pushes up, we have what's known as a mallet toe.  Both of these foot issues are caused by the same thing.  Despite what many folks say, hammertoes are not caused by substandard footwear.  It's true that certain types of shoes and stockings can make the hammertoe worse but the actual cause is usually hereditary.  Biomechanical factors like high arches and long second toes lead to the curling of toes over time.

Hammertoes themselves are not particularly painful.  They do indirectly cause some painful issues though.  The most common ones are corns and calluses.  Both of these sores are caused by excessive friction - usually between skin and shoe.  With hammertoes, most folks find these painful little buggers develop on the top of their raised knuckle.  This makes perfect sense.  The knuckle, raised due to the curled toe, is constantly rubbing against the roof of your shoe.  Over time, calluses or corns form to protect the skin from the shoe.  Another way hammertoes cause pain relates to the way one walks.  You see, the curled toes forces affected men and women to walk differently then they normally would.  This change in gait can have very undesirable effects on our legs and lower back.

Now, the trick to treating hammertoes without surgery is to catch them early.  As outlined above, hammertoes aren't painful - it's the side effects that are.  If you can prevent your toes from curling too far, you'll avoid all pain.  Keep a close eye on your feet.  If you notice the knuckles on your inner toes starting to pop up, you should make a few small changes.

The first thing to look at is your footwear.  I stated earlier that hammertoes aren't caused by faulty footwear - and this is true.  Certain types of shoes can make this condition worse though.  Shoes that are too short or small, for example, can make your toes curl even more.  Pay close attention to the toe boxes of the footwear you choose.  The front of the shoe should have plenty of room for your toes to stretch out.  High heels would be a great example of what not to wear if you think you have hammertoes.  There are also a number of inexpensive products available that help straighten your toes - or at least prevent them from curling further.  These take many forms including pads, sleeves and caps.  Check out Amazon for a full selection of these products.

Taking these steps will often stop the digits from becoming hammertoes.  In some cases, you'll actually see the toes uncurl.  If corns, calluses and walking gait issues are already present, you'll probably need surgery to uncurl your toes.  The procedure is known as a tenotomy.  It's fairly straightforward and can be done by either a podiatrist or an orthopedic surgeons.