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What Causes Hammer Toe? Best Exercises For Hammer Toe?

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Do you experience pain and discomfort in your toes? Hammer toe could be the culprit. This common condition occurs when there is an imbalance in the muscles and tendons that control the movement of your toes. But what causes hammer toe in the first place? And what are the best exercises to alleviate the symptoms? In this article, we will explore the various factors that can lead to hammer toe development. From genetics and foot structure to ill-fitting shoes and muscle imbalances, we will uncover the underlying causes that contribute to this condition. Understanding the root causes can help you take proactive steps to prevent hammer toe or manage its symptoms effectively. Additionally, we will share a selection of the best exercises for hammer toe. These exercises focus on strengthening and stretching the muscles and tendons in your toes, helping to improve their mobility and reduce pain. By incorporating these exercises into your daily routine, you can promote better foot health and potentially slow down the progression of hammer toe. So, if you're ready to learn about the causes of hammer toe and discover effective exercises to alleviate its symptoms, let's dive in!

Causes of Hammer Toe

A variety of factors can contribute to the development of hammer toe. One of the primary causes is genetics. Some people may be predisposed to having weaker foot muscles or an unusual foot structure, which can increase the risk of developing hammer toe. Additionally, wearing ill-fitting shoes that squeeze the toes together or have high heels can put excessive pressure on the toes, leading to muscle imbalances and the development of hammer toe.

Another common cause is muscle and tendon imbalances. The muscles and tendons work together to control the movement of the toes. When there is an imbalance or weakness in these structures, it can cause the toes to become misaligned and eventually develop hammer toe. This imbalance can be caused by factors such as foot injuries, nerve damage, or certain medical conditions like arthritis.

Best Exercises for Hammer Toe

Exercises can play a crucial role in managing hammer toe and improving foot health. Here are some of the best exercises to incorporate into your daily routine:

1. Toe stretches: Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Use your hands to gently stretch your toes back, holding the position for a few seconds. Repeat this exercise several times a day to increase flexibility.

2. Marble pickup: Place a small marble on the floor and use your toes to pick it up and drop it into a cup. This exercise helps strengthen the muscles in your toes.

3. Toe curls: While sitting on a chair, place a towel on the floor and use your toes to scrunch it up towards you. Hold the towel with your toes for a few seconds before releasing it. Repeat this exercise several times.

4. Toe extensions: Sit on a chair and place a rubber band around all of your toes. Spread your toes apart against the resistance of the band and hold for a few seconds. Release and repeat.

5. Tennis ball roll: Place a tennis ball on the floor and roll it back and forth under your foot. This exercise helps massage the muscles and improve circulation.

Remember to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of these exercises over time. If you experience any pain or discomfort, stop the exercise and consult with a healthcare professional.

Best Exercises for Hammer Toe

Risk Factors for Developing Hammer Toe

While anyone can develop hammer toe, certain factors can increase the risk. Women are more likely to develop the condition than men, primarily due to the types of shoes they tend to wear. High heels and narrow-toed shoes can force the toes into unnatural positions, making them more susceptible to developing hammer toe. Additionally, individuals with a family history of hammer toe or other foot problems may have a higher risk of developing the condition.

Symptoms of Hammer Toe

Hammer toe can cause a range of symptoms, including pain, stiffness, and swelling in the affected toe(s). Initially, the symptoms may be mild and only occur while wearing certain types of shoes or engaging in activities that put pressure on the toes. However, as the condition progresses, the symptoms can become more persistent and interfere with daily activities. In some cases, the affected toe(s) may even become rigid and difficult to move.

Diagnosing Hammer Toe

If you suspect that you have hammer toe, it is important to seek a proper diagnosis from a medical professional. During a physical examination, the doctor will assess the alignment of your toes and evaluate your foot structure. They may also order X-rays to get a clearer picture of the severity of the condition. This will help determine the appropriate treatment approach and rule out any other underlying causes of your symptoms.

Non-surgical Treatment Options for Hammer Toe

In many cases, non-surgical treatment options can effectively manage the symptoms of hammer toe. These may include:

1. Wearing proper footwear: Opt for shoes that provide ample room for your toes to move freely and avoid high heels or narrow-toed shoes that can exacerbate the condition.

2. Using orthotic devices: Custom-made shoe inserts, called orthotics, can help support the foot and correct any muscle imbalances that contribute to hammer toe.

3. Doing toe exercises: Specific exercises that target the muscles and tendons in your toes can help improve their strength and flexibility, reducing the symptoms of hammer toe.

4. Applying splints or straps: These devices can help realign the affected toe(s) and relieve pressure, allowing the muscles and tendons to heal.

5. Taking over-the-counter pain relievers: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation associated with hammer toe.

It is important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate non-surgical treatment options for your specific case.

Proper Footwear

Tips for Preventing Hammer Toe

While some factors that contribute to hammer toe, such as genetics, cannot be changed, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk and prevent the condition from worsening:

1. Choose the right footwear: Opt for shoes that provide enough room for your toes to move freely. Avoid high heels or shoes with narrow toe boxes that squeeze your toes together.

2. Wear orthotics: If you have an underlying foot structure issue or muscle imbalance, using custom-made shoe inserts can help correct these problems and prevent hammer toe.

3. Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight puts additional pressure on your feet, increasing the risk of developing foot problems like hammer toe. Maintain a healthy weight to reduce this risk.

4. Exercise regularly: Regular exercise helps improve circulation and strengthen the muscles in your feet and toes. Include exercises that specifically target toe strength and flexibility.

5. Take breaks: If you spend long hours on your feet, take regular breaks to give your feet a rest. This can help prevent muscle fatigue and reduce the risk of developing foot problems.

Surgical Treatment Options for Hammer Toe

In severe cases where non-surgical treatments do not provide relief, surgical intervention may be necessary. The specific surgical procedure will depend on the severity and type of hammer toe. Surgical options may include releasing or lengthening tendons, removing bone or joint deformities, or fusing the affected joint.

It is essential to consult with an orthopedic surgeon or podiatrist to determine the most appropriate surgical treatment option for your specific case.

Bilt Labs Custom Orthotics

Hammertoes, those pesky contracted toes, can cause pain, rubbing, and make finding stylish shoes a challenge. If you're dealing with hammertoes, you're not alone. Thankfully, there are solutions to slow progression and manage discomfort. One such option is custom orthotics, and Bilt Labs offers a compelling choice for those seeking targeted hammertoe relief.

Traditional footwear often lacks proper arch support, which can contribute to hammertoe development. Bilt Labs custom orthotics address this issue by creating personalized footbeds that specifically target your arch shape. This improved support helps realign your toes, alleviating pressure on the joints and preventing further contracture.

Beyond arch support, Bilt Labs orthotics can be designed with features to directly address hammertoes. Podiatrists may recommend orthotics with toe ramps or metatarsal pads. Toe ramps elevate the affected toes, reducing friction and irritation. Metatarsal pads, strategically placed under the ball of the foot, redistribute pressure away from the toes, promoting better alignment.

If you're experiencing hammertoe pain, consulting a podiatrist is crucial to determine the best course of treatment. Bilt Labs custom orthotics, combined with other therapies or footwear modifications, can be a powerful tool in your hammertoe management toolbox. They can provide pain relief, improve comfort, and even help prevent further progression of the condition.

Bilt Labs Custom Orthotics


Hammer toe is a common condition that can cause pain and discomfort in the toes. By understanding the underlying causes and risk factors, you can take proactive steps to prevent hammer toe or manage its symptoms effectively. Incorporating exercises that strengthen and stretch the muscles and tendons in your toes can help improve their mobility and reduce pain. Additionally, following preventive measures and seeking appropriate medical care when needed can go a long way in promoting better foot health. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. Take our free quiz today to find out which orthotic type is best for your feet.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any decisions about your health. If you have any questions about your health or are experiencing any medical problems, please contact your doctor or other healthcare provider immediately. Do not delay seeking medical attention based on the information provided in this article.