Understanding Hammertoes -- Prevention

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on April 27, 2023
2 min read

Preventing foot problems, including hammertoes, is often a matter of wearing the right shoes and taking care of your feet. A few tips:

Check your feet regularly for problems. This is especially true if you have diabetes or any other medical condition that causes poor circulation or numbness in your toes. If you do, check feet daily so that problems can be caught early on.

Good circulation is essential. When you're sitting down, put your feet up. If you've been sitting for a while, stretch your legs and feet. Give yourself a foot massage -- or trade foot massages with someone you love. A warm foot bath is also a good idea.

Above all, wear sensible shoes. Here are some tips:

  • Most people have one foot that's bigger than the other. Fit your shoes to the bigger foot.
  • Buy shoes at the end of the day, as feet tend to swell a bit and you will get a better sense of fit.
  • Buy shoes with good arch support.
  • Wear orthotics, if prescribed.
  • Avoid shoes with a pointy, narrow toe box.
  • When buying shoes, wear the socks that you will be using when wearing that shoe. For example, wear an athletic sock when buying athletic shoes and a dress sock when purchasing dress shoes. If the shoe does not feel good at the time of purchase, then it will never feel good.
  • As you get older, your feet get bigger. Get your feet measured every time you buy shoes.
  • Don't go by shoe sizes. Shoe sizes vary among manufacturers; a shoe is the right size only when it fits comfortably.
  • The ball of your foot should fit into the widest part of the shoe.
  • A shoe should be sturdy such that it only bends in the ball of the foot -- exactly where your big toes bend. Any shoe that can be bent anywhere along the sole or twisted side to side is generally too flimsy.
  • There should be at least one-half inch between the tip of your longest toe and the front of the shoe.
  • Never buy shoes that feel tight and expect them to stretch with wearing.
  • If you have prominent areas on your feet such as hammertoes and bunions, avoid shoes with a lot of stitching or multiple pieces of fabric, as these stitched areas tend not to stretch to accommodate various toe deformities.
  • Your shoes shouldn't ride up and down on your heel as you walk.
  • The higher the heel, the less safe the shoe.
  • Check children's shoes often to make sure they still fit.