I admit it. I have one, and quite frankly, I hate it. It looks funny. It is painful when I wear certain shoes--the challenge is just putting on a pair of shoes because it sticks up abnormally, and I have to push the toe down to get my foot into the shoe. From a fashion standpoint, depending upon the type of shoes I am wearing, you can see where it sticks up underneath the fabric of the shoe. What is this foot deformity about which I speak? It is a hammer toe, also referred to as a claw toe. (I prefer hammer toe. Claw toe sounds too evil or something!)
In short, a hammer toe is a deformity of the second, third, or fourth toe. The toe becomes bent at the middle joint, resembling a hammer. At the onset, a hammer toe is quite flexible and can be treated by a variety of means. However, if left untreated, it can become stuck in that position and require surgical intervention to repair it. For those who have this condition, finding comfortable shoes is a dilemma. Don’t even think about wearing any of those fun, fashion-forward shoes. They rarely work, and they hurt like a son-of-a-gun when you do wear them.
Hammer toes are usually sustained when you wear ill-fitting shoes or suffer from a muscle imbalance, usually in combination with one or more other factors. The muscles work in tandem to straighten and bend the toes. If a toe becomes bent and stuck in one position for an appreciable amount of time, the muscles will tighten and cannot stretch out.
Shoes that are narrow at the tip will push the smaller toes into a bent position. The toes will rub against the shoe, which can then cause calluses and corns, only serving to aggravate the condition. A high heel forces the foot down, squishing the toes against the inside of the shoe, thereby increasing the pressure and the bend in the toe. What soon happens is the toe muscles are unable to straighten out the toe, even when there is no shoe to confine it. (All one has to do is look at my foot to see the truth in that!)
As for treatment, a conservative approach is to opt for new shoes that have soft, roomy toe boxes.