A hammer toe, or Hallux Abducto Valgus, is a structural distortion caused by contracted toe flexor muscles, also called flexion contractures, usually in the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th toe. Two of the toe joints are in extension and one joint in the middle is in flexion causing it to be bent resembling a hammer.
Claw toes is a similar condition where two joint are both in flexion resembling a claw.
Causes: The most common cause of hammer toes a is wearing poorly fitting shoes that force the toe into a bent position, such as high heels or shoes that are too short or narrow. Having the toes bent for long periods of time can cause the muscles to shorten, resulting in deformity. This condition, could be hereditary, and is often found in conjunction with bunions or other foot problems. Other causes include tight muscles, muscle imbalance, neuromuscular or joint disorders such as gout or arthritis, stroke, or diabetes.
A bunion is a deformity where the big toe points laterally, toward the second toe when pressure is applied to the side of the big toe forcing it inwards towards and sometimes under or over the second toe. Symptoms include irritated skin around the bunion, joint redness and pain when walking, and a shift of the big toe toward the second toe. Blisters may also form more easily around the bunion. It occurs more often in women than men, but it is undetermined if this is due to a structural cause or associated with a particular type of shoe.
Causes: The deformity is caused by a variety of biomechanical, structural, or genetic factors including poor footwear, lax ligaments, weak muscles, or abnormal bone structure. The most frequent explanation for bunions is caused by wearing narrow shoes that squeeze the toes. Orthopedic Assessment by Whitney Lowe
Treatment: Soft tissue treatment for hammer toes and bunions is similar. I always balance the pelvis first, then release fascial restrictions and balance all the muscles in the legs and the feet before stretching the muscles and plantar fascia that flex the toes. Arthrokinetics, which is joint movement—compression and traction followed by gentle lateral flexion of the restricted joints, creating joint space and mobilization, can help reduce calcification and start to reverse the effects of bunions and hammer toes. Clinical Massage Therapy, James Waslaski
More severe or longstanding cases may require orthopedic surgery, where the doctor detaches part of the bone of the affected joint, to correct the deformity
Home Self-Care: It’s necessary to wear correct footwear to restore your feet back to their natural shape. Avoid narrow shoes that push your toes forward and focus your body-weight down on your toes instead of evenly distributing it along the length of your foot. Wear less restrictive sandals whenever possible.
Spending as much time as possible walking barefoot can prevent and even heal some bunions. Walking on uneven terrain, sand specifically, is especially good exercise that strengthens your toes and allows your joints to work naturally.