Do High Heels Cause Hammertoes?

Do High Heels Cause Hammertoes?

Hammertoe is a toe deformity that causes the toe to bend at the middle joint with the tip curling down, resembling a hammer. As the condition progresses, the joint is stuck in an upward position, causing pain and problems walking. It's common for a callus to appear at the top of the joint and for the joint to stiffen.

When it comes to foot problems, high heels are known to contribute to a wide variety of issues — and that includes hammertoe. At Concord Podiatry, board-certified podiatrist David Biss, DPM, diagnoses and treats a full range of foot and ankle problems, including hammertoe. Here, we explain more about the connection between hammertoe and wearing high heels.

Your toe joints

There are 28 bones in each of your feet. Your big toe has two joints, and your other toes have three joints. When a hammertoe develops, there’s an unnatural bend in the second joint of the toe, curving the affected toe in an unnatural position. 

This toe deformity commonly affects the joint in the second, third, and fourth toes and restricts the movement of the large toe when you walk. 

The link between hammertoe and high heels

You’re more likely to develop hammertoe and other painful foot problems if you wear high heels or ill-fitting, unsupportive shoes for several hours daily or on a regular basis. High heels raise your heel several inches from the ground — a position that isn’t natural — placing stress on your feet and toes.

Another problem with high heels is that the shoes are narrow in the toe area. While this may make your feet look slimmer, it's bad news for your toe joints. The front of the shoe squeezes the toes and cramps them and into a smaller space. 

This causes your toes to bend unnaturally, setting the stage for problems like hammertoe. To add to that, because the toes are crammed into a space that is too small, the toes rub against the inside of the shoe, which promotes calluses.

Understanding how high heels place your feet in an unnatural position makes it easy to see how wearing them daily can cause hammertoe to develop. Fortunately, treatment for hammertoe relieves the pain and discomfort and improves your foot health.

The most important and necessary step is wearing well-fitting, comfortable shoes that are under 2 inches in the heel. If you have hammertoe, it's wise to visit a podiatry specialist for a careful and thorough evaluation and treatment.

Correcting hammertoe

Nonsurgical options are the first defense against hammertoe. In addition to changing your footwear, Dr. Biss may recommend custom orthotics to support your feet and keep the bones in the right position. Splints may be used to realign a deformed toe, and corticosteroid injections can help ease information and relieve pain caused by hammertoe.

Depending on your symptoms and the severity of your hammertoe, surgery may be necessary to correct your hammertoe and restore your toes to their natural positions. 

Hammertoe correction is an outpatient surgery. The surgical approach depends on the nature and severity of your deformity.

For instance, if you have a flexible hammertoe (the toe is still able to move), corrective surgery may involve rerouting a tendon so the joint is positioned straight. If you have a rigid hammertoe (the toe doesn’t move), surgery may involve removing portions of the joint and using pins to straighten the toe.

The goal of treatment to manage hammertoe is reducing pain and correcting the toe joint position. The best place to start is with a comprehensive evaluation. Call one of our clinics — in Concord or Plymouth, New Hampshire — to schedule an appointment with Dr. Biss today. 

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