Health A-Z

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Harvard Medical School

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Prevention

Most cases of hammertoe can be prevented by wearing shoes that fit properly and give the toes plenty of room. Some recommended guidelines include:

  • Avoid shoes with pointed or narrow toes.

  • Avoid shoes that are too tight or short.

  • Avoid high-heeled shoes, which can force the toes forward.

  • If the shoes hurt, don't wear them.

  • Choose shoes with wide or boxy toes.

  • Choose shoes that are a half-inch longer than your longest toe.

If you notice the beginning signs of hammertoe, you may be able to prevent the tendons from tightening by wearing toe-friendly shoes, by flattening your toes regularly, and by soaking your feet every day in warm water, then stretching your toes and ankles by pointing your toes.

Foot exercises also can help to maintain or restore the flexibility of the tendons. One simple exercise is to place a small towel on the floor and then pick it up using only your toes. You also can grasp at carpet with your toes or curl your toes up and down repeatedly.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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