Are you bent out of shape about toes that are, well, bent out of shape? If so, you’re not alone—according to research conducted in 2012, about 7 million adults (roughly) in the United States suffer from hammertoes (or the closely related conditions claw toes and mallet toes).
There’s no one simple cause for this deformity. In fact, hammertoes can usually be traced to a combination of catalyzing factors, some of which may be genetic (like how your feet are naturally shaped) or related to disease or injury. However, improper footwear is often one of the underlying components in many cases.
How do bad shoes contribute to toes that go bad? And what kinds of shoes should you avoid? Unfortunately, women’s fashion is replete with examples of footwear that can greatly increase your risk of developing hammertoes—there’s a reason why women account for about 9 out of every 10 cases nationally.
We’ll start by saying any type of shoes that cram your toes into a tight space and constrict their wiggle room is an obvious red flag. Many fashionable shoes have a tight, narrowing (or even outright pointed) front portion that force your toes into unnatural positions for long period of time. Eventually, this leads to weakened joints and imbalances between pairs of muscles that control flexing and straightening your toe. Those imbalances, in turn, prevent you from straightening your toe from its flexed position.
High heels, particularly those greater than 2” tall, tend to compound the problem by pushing weight and pressure toward the front of your feet and forcing you to walk with an unnatural, biomechanically unsound gait. Most of these shoes also feature tight toe boxes.
It’s okay to wear “bad” shoes once in a while, for special occasions. Furthermore, certain hobbies or professions may occasionally call for footwear choices that aren’t exactly the best for your feet. However, we strongly urge you to minimize the amount of time you wear them and stick to comfortable, breathable, practical footwear that fits great and gives your toes lots of wiggle room for your regular routine.
For more footwear advice, or help with your hammertoes, please give Massapequa Podiatry Associates a call at 877-674-7422. We specialize in both conservative and surgical care and can provide the best treatment strategy for your situation and lifestyle. You can also request an appointment online.