Feet First

Solutions for bunions, plantar fascia, and more.

Feet First
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Hammer Toe

What it is: A buckling of the second, third, fourth, or fifth toe that causes the tip of the toe to bend down while the middle rises up, like a hammer. (Claw toe, when the toe curls under the foot and presses against the bottom of the shoe, is a variation.) If the bent toes rub against your shoes, you may also develop corns or calluses.

Causes: Weakened toe muscles; muscle and nerve damage caused by stroke or rheumatoid arthritis; foot and ankle misalignment due to over-pronation.

How to deal:

  • See a podiatrist. If the toe is still flexible, splints or special tape may help extend and flatten it. If the toe is rigid, surgery can straighten the toe by releasing soft tissue and repositioning tendons or bone.
  • Wear shoes with more toe space and use nonmedicated corn pads to ease pain or pressure.
  • Try these gentle stretches from the APMA to strengthen toes and feet: Place corks or foam separators between your toes and squeeze for five seconds. Repeat 10 times. Next, place a thick rubber band around all five toes and stretch the band as wide as you can with your toes; hold for five seconds. Repeat on each foot 10 times.



What it is: Irritation of the metatarsals, the five long bones located at the top of your foot, just behind the toes.

Causes: Intense training in high-impact sports, like running; weight gain.

How to deal:

  • Rest your foot and do not resume strenuous activity until the pain is completely gone (about six weeks).
  • Ice the area for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, several times a day.
  • Use metatarsal pads to deflect pain away from the sore spots, and wear shock-absorbing insoles.
  • Eat foods with curcumin, an anti-inflammatory herb, or take antiinflammatory medication if pain persists.
  • Consult your doctor to see if you need arch supports. In some cases, you may need surgery to realign the metatarsal bones.