Hammer Toe, Claw Toe, Mallet Toe, Cross Toe and Foot Pain – Part 1

Diagram showing the difference between Hammer and Claw toes

Straight toe talk to help you de-claw those despicable talon toes.

What Is a hammer toe?

A Hammertoe is an abnormal, continuously bent toe (flexed). It can be one or both joints of the second, third, fourth, or fifth toes. When the joints (knuckles) in the hammertoe bend this also moves the toe joints upward. Thats because the tip of the toe is forced downward, and often curls under, closer to the ball of the foot. This makes the first toe “knuckle” higher than the neighboring, unaffected toes. This also produces painful and irritating contact with the shoe.

Hammertoes get worse with time, contracting more and becoming increasingly rigid. This causes increased pain and disability. In the earlier stages, Hammertoes (like bunions) are still flexible. Hammertoes in most all cases don’t arrive over night. It is a slowly evolving condition. The longer Hammer toes’s (and Bunions) exist without an effective foot and toe stretch exercise program,  the more rigid they become, same as any other joint in our body. Toes living their lives in shoes get the least amount of proper exercise of any joint system in the body.

To make matters worse, we hide our feet for protection and for fashion inside tight shoes. To compound matters further, our feet are located at the outer reaches, the most distant orbits on our heavenly body. Out of sight, out of mind.  However, the most significant obstacle our feet face is a black hole of understanding that keeps us poorly informed and in the dark.

Only recently has the hammer toe and bunion business been liberated from the lockstep monopoly of  “Wait and see if it gets worse” (and of course it will) and “we can schedule surgery if it doesn’t improve”. The product of the “wait” approach has been to live with the pain, embarrassment and disability until it progresses to a severe stage. Then an invasive procedure almost sounds commonsensical.

An informative way to understand Hammer Toes is to view them as a vertical Bunions (up & down VS sideways). Both are caused by improper and constant pressure without counterbalancing stretch and exercise program. The pressure results in permanent muscle imbalances in the toe. If muscle balance  in your toes is disrupted, your ability to skillfully and safely balance your body is disrupted.

Source: Myfootshop.com

Instead of pushing the toe sideways toward the center of the foot as with a bunion, Hammertoe pressure is pushing the toe backwards, toward the ball of the foot. The toe has no choice but to bend up and thats the beginning of a hammer toe. No room in the end of your shoes for five toes to fit, so one or more volunteer to bend, shorten and lift up. Viola’, Hammer toe!

Frederic Ferri -Inventor of YogaToes

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9 Comments

  • November 30, 2010 - 3:57 PM | Permalink

    And on another note, NEW BLOG POST TODAY! Hammer Toe, Claw Toe, Mallet Toe, Cross Toe and Foot Pain!… http://fb.me/PhdJz81U

  • November 30, 2010 - 5:11 PM | Permalink
  • January 1, 2011 - 1:49 PM | Permalink
  • Vittoria
    February 7, 2011 - 8:53 PM | Permalink

    very informative! i’ve always been careful not to wear tight shoes but i do love my high heels. the things we do for fashion…still, i’ll think twice after this.

  • cindy c
    February 9, 2011 - 10:32 AM | Permalink

    I’m def guilty of wearing too tight of shoes!

  • December 17, 2011 - 11:00 AM | Permalink

    Hi Brad,
    I know what you mean, Claw toes may occur in any toe, except the big toe. Claw toes tend to be unpleasant simply because they trigger discomfort towards the gentle tissue encircling this particular the main feet, leading to additional inflammation as well as discomfort.
    I’ll be back to read more next time

  • Bill Goldman
    August 23, 2012 - 10:47 PM | Permalink

    That’s “Voila!” not “Viola!”

    • July 15, 2013 - 12:15 PM | Permalink

      Thanks Bill. What’s more, there should be an “accent grave” on the a!

  • October 19, 2012 - 3:01 PM | Permalink

    Hammertoe, Claw toe, and Mallet toe. What’s the difference? #toeproblems http://t.co/tzWe68C8

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