Will your shoes cause hammer toe?

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Many people put on their work shoes each day without thinking about the impact they have on their lives. Comfortable, slip-resistant footwear can help you stay safe at work while avoiding common injuries like slips and falls. When people have good shoes that fit well, they don't think about their shoes because they aren't causing a distraction, but bad footwear can lead to serious foot problems. 

Two of these common foot issues that can be caused by shoes that don't fit well are hammer toe and mallet toe. These conditions can cause pain for employees that may inhibit their ability to work or decrease their comfort, especially for jobs that require long periods of standing. Whether you suspect you may have hammer toe or you want to ensure that you avoid this condition, it's a good idea to learn about what these deformities are, how they're caused and how to treat them.

What are hammer toe and mallet toe?
Hammer toe is better known than mallet toe, but both are similar in function although different in location. Hammer typically affects the middle three toes on a foot and often happens to women who wear high-heeled shoes. However, hammer toe can occur in any toe and affect nearly anyone – for some it's present from birth.

Hammer toe is the name for when the middle joint of a toe becomes bent and sticks up without control. A mallet toe is similar, but it occurs to the joint closest to the toenail, according to the Mayo Clinic. Others simply call this issue a hammer toe as well. Because hammer and mallet toes stick up when bent, they often rub against the interior of the shoe. This can lead to other painful foot problems on the toes. 

"Shoes will aggravate it, causing corns and pain," Alan Mauser, D.P.M., a podiatrist in Louisville, Kentucky, told Everyday Health. "Sometimes you can get corns on the top of the toe because the toe is contracted, or corns on the tips of the toe which are very painful. Corns and hammer toes kind of go together."

What causes these deformities? 
While it's clear that shoes that don't fit well contribute to these issues, many people are unaware how exactly this can lead to hammer toes. Shoes that are raised more than 2 inches in the rear or those that squeeze the toes together in front can be a major contributing factor to hammer toe. Hammer toe is actually caused by one of the toe's tendons becoming stronger than the other and dominating. 

Often, hammer toes aren't the result of a single cause, but rather several risk factors coming together. The New York University Medical School explained that there are a variety of factors than can predispose people to develop these conditions, such as arthritis, nerve damage, toe injury, high arches, weak foot muscles, abnormalities or hereditary predisposition. 

How can hammer toe be treated and prevented? 
Although hammer and mallet toe can be painful and uncomfortable conditions, they can often be fixed or avoided altogether. If people realize that they're developing hammer toe early enough, it can be corrected and splinted. Doctor-recommended exercises may also be useful.

If the toe is stiff and stuck in the bent position, more drastic measures may be necessary. Sometimes people require surgery to repair and move the ligaments and tendons affected. In order to relieve symptoms, people also often need to wear corn pads, shoe inserts and shoes that fit well and have plenty of room.

If you're experiencing slight pain or difficulty walking, talk to your doctor about hammer toe solutions and what you should look for in a comfortable work shoe that will aid your recovery and provide safety and comfort.

Brought to you by Shoes For Crews, the trusted leader in safety footwear for more than 30 years.

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