Painful and unsightly, many people deal with hammer toes in their senior years or after time wearing shoes that do not provide enough space for their feet. Hammer toes are caused by an incorrect pulling of the tendon at the top of the foot, distorting their appearance and creating the opportunity for corns to develop on the toes. Some people are genetically predisposed to the development of hammer toes, and arthritis is a key factors in some cases. Others acquire the condition over time by wearing shoes that do not support the natural alignment of the toes, such as high-heeled shoes or tight shoes and stockings.
Shop for shoes that appropriately fit the width and length of your foot. Don't rely on trying on shoes to know if they fit; have them measured at a shoe store. Look for brands that carry wide widths and a large variety of lengths.
Wear socks that you will appropriately pair with the shoes. Wear cotton athletic socks when trying on athletic shoes, not thin dress socks. Ensure socks are not too tight and do not cause bunching of toes.
Shop at the end of a day of work or walking around, when feet are at their largest size. Most feet swell a bit through walking and activities of the day, and shoes that are not appropriately sized during this time may increase the appearance of hammer toes.
Buy shoes with rounded toes and a normal heel. Avoid purchasing high heels when treating hammer toes, as they force the toes against the tip of the shoe. Pointed toe shoes will smash toes together and cause pain and exaggeration of hammer toes.
Remove your shoes and flex the toes toward the shin. Push the toes down and stretch. Repeat this exercise with both feet to relieve and prevent hammer toes.
Pick up small items with your toes, such as marbles. Scrunch the toes up to pick up the item, such as a pen or marble.
Walk around barefoot or in sandals to flex the tendons in the foot. Feel free to exaggerate the movement and flexing of the feet as long as the result is stretching and not pain.
Soak your feet in warm water, then cold water 2 to 3 times per day to reduce swelling and pain around the joints.
Try taping your toes in place. Taping will help to correct the alignment of toes and prevent incorrect bending in the joint, thus relieving pain.
Buy a protective toe straightener or alignment splint and wear it every day. Many of these devices can be worn with shoes, but without a change in more comfortable shoes the splints will not provide any lasting success.
Check with your doctor if pain does not subside in a couple of weeks. Serious hammer toe problems may need surgery to correct.