A hammer toe is a toe--usually the second, third or fourth--that has a bend in the centre joint, giving it a clawlike appearance. The often-painful bend is usually caused by shoes that do not fit correctly, or that have too high a heel. Usually, hammer toes can be remedied by wearing shoe inserts and changing your footwear, and in serious cases, by surgery.
See a doctor. Your physician can explain why your shoes have been giving you hammer toe and how severe your condition is.
Purchase new shoes. The best shoes to prevent hammer toe are walking shoes with a roomy front and supportive arch. Wear such shoes around the house and while doing everyday activities.
Get fitted for orthotics (shoe inserts). A podiatrist or general practitioner can order orthotics specially fitted to your feet to provide better support and correct hammer toe. You can also purchase generic orthotics at your local drugstore, but they may not address hammer toe as well as custom orthotics.
Avoid wearing heels. High heels cause unnecessary pressure on your toe joints, creating a rigid and bent hammer toe. Your doctor will suggest that you wear high heels as little as possible to prevent a more severe hammer toe problem.
Practice toe exercises. Your doctor may give you a list of toe exercises that includes stretching the toes with your hands and using your toes to grab and lift things. Pull your toes gently in the opposite direction from that in which they are bending. If your toes bend down, press them gently up with your fingers and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Place a flat towel on the floor and practice crumpling the towel with your toes. Place two marbles on the floor and pick them up with one foot at the same time 10 times. These exercises will strengthen your toes and make them less rigid.
Get an operation. Hammer toe operations range from a simple incision that releases the tendon in your middle joint, or a major operation involving bone removal from the toe. Pins may also be inserted in the toe, depending on the severity of the hammer toe. Talk to your doctor for more information on the specific operation you may need.
If you are experiencing severe pain, numbness or bruising accompanying your hammer toe, visit your doctor immediately.