A hammer toe often starts as a misalignment in the foot that we don’t give much thought to or even completely ignore and most often a hammer toe will not resolve on its own. It can get worse with time until it becomes painful, swollen, or stiff; with the second, third and fourth toe most at risk. Knowing the right hammer toe exercises to perform can help promote optimal foot health. Keep scrolling for the top recommended exercises (from physical therapist) to improve your affected toe.
When a hammer toe occurs, we tend to blame it on our genetics or age and blow it off. However, an exercise program that focuses on strengthening and stretching the lower leg, foot, ankle, and toes can provide relief from foot pain and prevent unnecessary progression. Regular exercise keeps the foot flexible, boosts any necessary healing, reduces inflammation, and increases your overall confidence in your feet by restoring balance in the foot that will promote a straighter toe.
When facing a hammer toe, there are certain muscles in the foot that are causing your toe to be misaligned. One of the primary muscles that gets tight is actually located in the front of the shin and is attached to the top to the toes for extension. By reducing tightness in the entire lower leg, the toe can assume better or even normal alignment; reducing foot problems.
Using toe separators and spacers are a great way to stretch the toes regularly for an extended period of time. This device gently stretches the toes into better alignment.
Don’t have a toe separator? You can get creative with items in your home or even use your fingers.
The middle joint of your affected toe is essentially stuck in flexion (a bent position). Thus, stretching the toes into extension can give relief and help restore better alignment.
Once you are finished stretching the feet in extension, you should also reverse the direction by stretching into toe flexion. Simply place the tops of your toes on the floor and let them curl as far as is comfortable.
To prevent unnecessary stiffness and promote better balance, moving your toes through their full active range of motion will feel good. If you’re struggling with this exercise because your toes are too stiff, you may need to use your hands as a guide (and overpressure) in each direction.
Mobilization is a technique for specifically stretching a joint. For this stretch, you will be focusing on the middle joint in toe to address the surrounding connective tissue and ligaments.
If you don’t seem to be getting any lasting results with this, you can move up the “chain” in the lower leg to address other tight areas. The muscles in the shin can be part of the perpetual problem too. You can use your hands or a foam roller to address these areas.
These strengthening exercises are designed to strengthen the intrinsic toe muscles located in the feet and other lower leg muscles, while improving overall lower body coordination. The goal is to restore better muscular balance that puts the toes in better alignment with everyday normal function.
This exercise can be tough if you’ve never tried strengthening your toes. You should notice a gradual improvement in coordination the more often you complete this exercise. Stretching the foot first with the exercises above can help too. It is great for both hammer toe and bunions.
Being able to properly flex your toes is important for restoring foot balance too. Toe strengthening exercises like this one will get easier with practice. It is also great for plantar fasciitis.
When putting weight through your toes and foot, you are most likely reinforcing less than ideal movement patterns that have resulted from your hammer toe. Taking a step back and being able to learn to control your toes and forefoot with weight bearing activity, such as a single leg stance, while keeping them in good alignment will help restore and prevent toe alignment issues with daily activities.
An exercise program for your toe will be pretty straightforward (no pun intended). The hardest part will be learning to coordinate your toes in ways that you probably haven’t done regularly, unless you like to walk barefoot in the sand. To get the most out of your program, keep these tips in mind:
A hammer toe should be taken seriously to prevent unnecessary complications. With the right understanding of your condition, you can optimally manage your toe symptoms. It doesn’t have to be complicated, you just need to get started. If your symptoms aren’t getting better or are getting progressively worse, make sure to get in touch with your doctor, podiatrist, or physical therapist for further medical advice.
Sources:Hammer Toe Products