Tools—and body parts—are shaped certain ways for a reason. Changing that shape can actually make it harder for them to function. Imagine you need to hammer something together, so you pull out your box of nails. Some of your nails are bent, however. These nails can’t fully do what they are supposed to as a result. The same can be said of bent digits, like hammertoes. Toes are supposed to help you balance and walk normally. Stuck and painful toes hurt your independence.
Hammering Out the Cause
Hammertoes are a deformity in one of the small digits, though the second toe is the most common victim. The digit bends at the middle joint and becomes stuck there, putting abnormal pressure on the toe and causing pain. The condition is typically the result of a muscle or tendon imbalance in your foot. You have pairs of muscles and tendons that bend and straighten your toes. If one side tightens and shortens, and the opposite side is not strong enough to balance it out, your toe gets stuck.
You can develop the imbalance many ways. Shoes that don’t fit properly and cramp your toes can contribute to the problem. Nerve damage could weaken muscle or tendons and lead to the issue. Trauma to the toe could cause it to get stuck as well. Even preexisting conditions like bunions may play a role in the problem.