How to Help Your Hammertoes

If you have been living with hammertoes for any length of time, you are well aware that they’re not the most convenient or comfortable toe configuration.

Many shoes can be quite unaccommodating toward the condition, leading to painful friction and the buildup of corns and calluses as your toes constantly battle the inside of your footwear. And if you have had hammertoes for quite some time and they have grown more rigid, the discomfort you feel can become even worse.

There is no doubt that the best course of action you can take to help manage unpleasant hammertoe symptoms is getting a professional examination and treatment. We have helped a great many patients throughout Palm Desert and the surrounding region manage their hammertoes, reclaiming comfort and maintaining range of motion.

Many people often think that only surgery can have any real effect on improving their life with hammertoes, but that is often not the case. There are many non-surgical steps one may be able to take to provide significant comfort and help slow the progression of the deformity.

We will outline a few pieces of advice here, but we still highly recommend letting us create a personalized plan that best meets your needs. Call us anytime you wish to schedule an appointment; we’ll always be happy to hear from you.

Change Your Footwear

Unfortunately, your hammertoes are never going to win a fight against constrictive shoes. The more your toes are forced to rub against them, the more likely you are to suffer from corns, calluses, and raw spots.

The shoes you choose to wear should be as accommodating to your toes as possible. This means a roomy and deep toe box that allows plenty of wiggle room while still providing a firm overall fit. You don’t want your foot to slide around inside the shoe, and you don’t want narrow or pointed forefoot areas at all.

Additionally, the shoe should not force excess weight toward the front of the foot. This means high heels are out of the question. Try to keep heel height to 2 inches or less in every case.

Protection and Padding

Pads made of gel or moleskin can be helpful in protecting protruding joints form rubbing against shoes when you really just can’t help it otherwise. We very much do not recommend going with any sort of “medicated” pad, as these can contain substances that might end up doing more harm than good over extended use.

Additional devices such as custom orthotics, splints and straps may also help provide some relief from symptoms when used properly. We recommend discussing their potential use with us to ensure that you would get the most out of them and not cause any additional trouble.

Close up of a woman's foot with a hammertoe

Work on Stretching and Mobility

Conditioning your toe joints can help maintain flexibility and range of motion for longer. This is ideal to begin when you are in the earlier stage of hammertoes, when the joints are still more flexible, and may be more difficult to accomplish in later stages.

In either case, perform all exercises gently and stop immediately if they are causing you pain. Contact our office or your primary care physician if you have any questions whatsoever about whether you should conduct these exercises.

  • Toe Pull. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Lift your right leg and place your ankle on your left thigh. Gently grasp each toe in turn and gently pull down, stretching the joint. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times for each toe.
  • Towel curl. Sit with your feet flat on the floor. Place a small towel in front of your feet, with the short end facing you. Grasp the towel with the toes of one foot and try to scrunch it toward you. Hold this position for 5 seconds, then relax your foot. Repeat 10 times with each foot, adding some weight to the towel if you would like more challenge (never thought you’d be weight training your toes, we bet).
  • Marble delivery. Once again, sit with your feet flat on the floor. Place two bowls on the floor in front of your feet – one containing up to 20 marbles, and the other empty. Using only the toes of one foot, pick up each marble and transfer it to the empty bowl. When done, transfer the marbles back using the toes of your other foot. You can time yourself on this if you wish, but don’t push yourself too hard.

It’s Never Too Late for a Plan

The sooner you address your hammertoes properly, the faster and more effective results you will tend to see.

While there is unfortunately no way to correct hammertoes outside of surgery, it is still very possible to minimize symptoms and enjoy significantly greater comfort without resorting to a surgical procedure. We can help you determine if that is the case for you – which it often is – and determine a plan that best suits your needs.

In the case that surgery really would be your only route to substantial relief, however, we can fully discuss with you what surgery would entail and what you should expect before, during, and after a procedure. We will answer any questions you have to ensure you have full knowledge going into your decision on how to proceed.

Whatever you do, don’t let hammertoes continue unabatedly making your life miserable. Call our office at (760) 568-0108 to schedule an appointment. If you prefer contacting us electronically instead, simply fill out our online contact form and member of our staff will respond to you during our standard office hours.

Dr. Harvey Danciger
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Dr. Harvey Danciger is a podiatrist and foot surgeon in Palm Desert, CA specializing in the foot and ankle
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