As the evolution of heels has drawn our feet to ever-higher expectations, foot ailments like hammer toes and bunions have followed suit. While they are indeed some genetic factors that can predispose these conditions, the ultimate culprit are high heeled, narrow shoes with little room for toes to spread out naturally. Pointy shoes especially force the foot into an unnatural position, thus creating the perfect storm for pain, discomfort, and ultimately disfigurement.
According to Podiatrist Dr. Emily Splichal, “Anything over the three-inch mark changes the biomechanics of how you walk — your strides are shortened, you can’t walk as fast, your body weight shifts to the ball of the foot, which throws off your center of gravity and stresses the knees and lower back,” she explains in an interview with Instyle magazine.
So what do hammer toes look like?
The most traditional sign of a hammer toe are toes that have been pushed upwards near the knuckle as it is squished against the inside of the shoe. This can be caused by years of wearing your shoes too small, regardless of heel height. As you walk, pressure builds and increases the bend in the toe. Eventually, the toe muscles become unable to straighten the toe, even when there is no confining shoe.
For those with narrow or low volume feet, orthotic inserts can help anchor the foot back into the heel counter and prevent excessive forward movement.
Treatment begins when you decide to stop wearing those high heel pointy-toe shoes. Instead look for shoes and sandals that have a soft and roomy, or open toe box for optimal “wiggle room.”
Birkenstock is renowned for the raised lip in all of their sandals that protects the toes from stubbing and provides an extra source of grip. Dansko footwear offers stylish, healthy heels, clogs, and sandals that offer wide toe boxes and optimal arch support without sacrificing that fashion forward edge.
Do I have a bunion?
Women are much more likely to develop bunions and callouses due to, again, high heeled and narrow shoes, no matter your age. If a person has a foot anatomy that is prone to bunions, wearing footwear with a too-narrow toe box will accelerate its development. Wearing footwear with a wide toe box may help prevent or at least delay their formation.
- A bony bump along the edge of the foot, at the base of the big toe (adjacent to the ball of the foot)
- Redness and some swelling at or near the big toe joint
- Deep dull pain in the big toe joint after walking or a sharp pain while walking
- The big toe is overlapping the second toe, resulting in redness, calluses, or other irritations such as corns
Can bunions be treated?
Getting rid of a Bunion is almost impossible without surgery. Foot and toe exercises can help, while foam pads can reduce pressure on the joint. Ice packs and anti-inflammatory medication can also help reduce the swelling.
The progress of a bunion can be slowed or even halted, especially if it is caused by ill-fitting footwear. Brands like Finn Comfort offer a whole collection dedicated to soothing problem feet. The FinnStretch offers a highly elastic flexible material that accommodate ailments like bunions, swelling feet, deformed toes, or highly sensitive soles. Best of all, their footwear is highly adjustable, a unique ability to adapt to feet of all shapes and sizes.
Again, Birkenstock provides roomy toe boxes that allow the toes to stretch out naturally. Their footwear also provides excellent metatarsal and medial arch support which helps keep the musculoskeletal structure of the foot in the proper supportive position.
In addition, the Kenkoh is a great option simply for its instant, relaxing stimulation and ability to soothe tired, achy feet. The Kenkoh’s unique natural rubber latex nodules increase circulation to problem areas, allowing them to heal more quickly.