Recently, various companies have been claiming wonderful benefits of shoe inserts. They are supposed to ease the pressure on the foot when walking and make your life more comfortable. Some go so far as to claim that their inserts can cure foot ailments, like hammer toe, but can they really?
Hammer toes is a fairly common foot deformity. It is an imbalance of the muscles that control how the toes flex and extend. Even though poor shoe choices can lead to hammer toe, most hammer toe is genetic. Other common causes of hammer toe are a flat foot or high arched foot.
Technically, the definition of hammer toe is pretty narrow, describing a specific problem in the toe joint. However, it is common to refer to many deformities of the toe as hammer toe, including mallet toe and claw toe, so that is what we will be looking at here.
Hammer toes are generally formed slowly over decades, starting with the first step of a child. These true hammer toe deformities cannot be reverse with any type of shoe insert, regardless what any commercial tells you. Some inserts can even speed up the development of hammer toes as they shove the toes up higher in the shoes. The only way to truly heal hammer toe is to have them surgically corrected.
So, what can shoe inserts do? Why would anyone buy them? Shoe inserts can change the structure of the shoe that you walk on. They can reinforce the arch, which can slow the formation of hammer toe. This can also slow the formation of other foot deformities, which is good if you were born with a bad genetic disposition.
Shoe inserts are also more comfortable to walk on. If you have a job where you stand for much of the day, these will make your feet feel better at the end of each day. Just don’t expect medical miracles.