The Non-Surgical Approach To Managing Hammertoe

Does one of your toes stay in the curled-up position unless you manually straighten it? You have hammertoe, a common condition in which the tendons in one of your toes shorten, leading to bending of the toe. Many people elect to have their hammertoes surgically corrected, but if you cannot undergo surgery or prefer to take a more conservative approach, you can help keep the hammertoe from getting worse – and also prevent associated pain and discomfort – by employing these tactics.

Apply over-the-counter pads to prevent shoes from rubbing.

One of the biggest issues with hammertoe is that the bent toe can rub on your shoe, causing blisters and sores that can become infected. To prevent this rubbing, you can purchase over-the-counter pads at a local pharmacy. Apply one to the top of the bent toe joint and another one to the inside of the toe next to the bent toe (your bent toe is likely to rub here, too). Be vigilant about changing the pads after every shower or bath so they don't hold moisture near your skin and put you at risk of a fungal infection like athlete's foot.

Choose the right footwear.

If a pair of shoes tends to bother your hammertoe, don't wear that pair of shoes! It's really that simple. Shoes with a wider toe box tend to be more comfortable. You may need to start buying shoes a size larger to accommodate your hammertoe without rubbing. Also, avoid heels with a narrow toe, as these tend to make hammertoe worse. (Actually, they are often the root cause of hammertoe in the first place.)

Soak your foot in Epsom salts when it's sore.

The magnesium and sulfate ions in Epsom salts have the unique ability to penetrate your skin and ease the tense muscles in your toe. Epsom salts also help prevent infection, which is important if your hammertoe ever rubs on your shoe and develops sores. Just toss a handful of Epsom salts into a pan of warm water, and soak your foot for about 20 minutes. You can repeat this treatment as often as you like. Many patients find that soaking their foot twice a week, even if it's not sore, helps keep them comfortable.

Note that once you have hammertoe, it is unlikely to resolve itself without surgery. However, as long as you're careful about following the tips above, the condition should have little impact on your overall life and well being. Contact a podiatrist, such as at, for more help.