The root cause of hammertoes is instability leading to muscle imbalances in the foot. While this is usually due to genetic predisposition, there are some instances where hammertoes are present (or present to a worse degree) in those whose family members have not dealt with the same condition. In short, hammertoes can be caused by poor choice of shoes!
High heels require different muscle activation during walking than a supportive pair of athletic shoes. Our toes grip the shoe in order to keep the shoe on and in place and this also increases the stability in the foot and ankle, as high heels place our ankle in a very unstable position. In addition, people who wear high heels on a routine basis can develop shortening of the Achilles tendon which is compensated for with over pronation (or outward twisting) of the foot. This then leads to flattening of our natural arches and this again requires us to grip more with our toes while walking - quite a vicious cycle! Flip flops are another offender. Traditional flip flops do not have any arch support and since they have only one strap between the first 2 toes, our toes again will grip while walking to keep the flip flop from flopping off! Chronic flip flop and high heel use can cause contracture of tendons in the toes and lead to a hammertoe deformity.
It is key to remember to rotate the type of shoe and heel heights worn from day to day. Be kind to your feet and they will thank you for it!
As always, call our office today if you can't quite manage that pain from your curly toes!