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High Heels and Hammertoe: What's the Connection?

Do you love how you look in high heels, but often suffer from blisters or sores after wearing them? Before you don another pair, you should know the connection between heels and the common foot deformity known as hammertoe.

The doctors at Family Foot and Ankle Center of South Jersey specialize in treating a wide range of podiatric problems, including hammertoe. Our team has many years of experience treating patients with hammertoe and the long-term consequences of improper foot protection.

What is hammertoe?

Hammertoe is a joint deformity that develops due to an imbalance in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of a toe. A digit with hammertoe usually has an unusual bend in the middle joint. Hammertoe can occur in the second, third, or fourth toe. Moving your toe in this condition can be painful.

Hammertoe usually starts out as a small problem. In the earlier stages, the toe usually remains flexible, and the symptoms are simpler to treat. However, if you leave it untreated, your hammertoe can become progressively worse and require corrective surgery. For this reason, it’s important to treat the condition early. 

Can high heels cause hammertoe?

Hammertoe can be caused by a number of things. Sometimes the condition can develop after an injury, such as stubbing or breaking your toe. It can also develop due to a genetic muscle imbalance. One of the most common causes of hammertoe, however, is wearing high heels. 

High heels force your feet into unnatural arches. Furthermore, high heels put a lot of pressure on the balls of your feet. And to top it off, high heels usually have narrow toe boxes. Narrow toe boxes jam your toes together for as long as you’re wearing the shoes. All of these factors can lead to an imbalance in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your toes, which can eventually lead to hammertoe.

Other factors

There are other factors that can contribute to the development of hammertoe, especially if you wear high heels:


The older you are, the more likely you are to develop the condition.

Toe length

If your second toe is longer than your big toe, you have a higher chance of developing hammertoe.


Arthritis and diabetes are also known to increase your chances of developing hammertoe.

Things you can do

The most effective way to avoid developing hammertoe is to wear shoes that fit properly. Avoid shoes with pointed toes, and make sure your shoes have enough space for your toes to fit comfortably. Laced or strapped shoes are good choices because you can adjust the tightness. You should also wear shoes with low heels to decrease the pressure on your toes. 

When you shop for shoes, do it at the end of the day. Your feet swell throughout the day, and they’re at their largest in the evening. By shopping later in the day, you won’t get a false fitting when you try on shoes. You should also try on different sizes as you age, because your shoe size can change with time, especially in the width.

If you have hammertoe or want to see if you do, we can give you a thorough examination and treat any problems you may have. To learn more, book an appointment over the phone with Family Foot and Ankle Center of South Jersey today.

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