Have you ever heard that wearing high heels can give you bunions? How about hammertoes? Whether you have worn heels for years and don't have hammertoes, never wore heels and have hammertoes, or want to wear heels but don't want hammer toes - it is important to understand the root cause of this deformity.
The three main types of digital contractures in the feet are referred to as hammertoes, claw toes and mallet toes. They all have a common denominator when it comes to why people get them - muscle imbalance. In this category, there is further breakup into what exact muscles are overpowering others, but the basic theory is that the tendons that help your toes to grip become stronger than those which hold them straight. As with anything else, genetics can be the basis of where these muscles start their game of tug-of-war. However, forcing your toes to work harder in stabilizing your foot to walk can definitely cause a muscle imbalance where there wasn't one before.
Therefore, YES, it is possible to get hammertoes from chronic high-heel wearing. This is not a 100% guarantee, but the possibility is definitely there, since wearing heels places a lot more reliance on your toes to grip the ground when walking and stabilize the foot to prevent injury. Should you avoid heels at all costs? Not necessarily. As a podiatrist, I realize the myriad of troubles that come from wearing heels, but as a woman I understand that sometimes those shoes just look too good to pass up! That being said, just like sweets, heels are OK in moderation. Alternate shoes daily and alternate the heel height daily. I always try to wear heels when I know walking distances will be a minimum. Wedges tend to be more stable than stilletos and I truly believe that more than 3.5-4" is NOT necessary ... this places your ankle at great risk of injury too.