So you have crooked, sore toes....how in the world did this happen? Was it the poorly fitting shoes mom and dad made you wear when you were young? Was it the high heels you wore in your twenties and thirties if you are female? Was it those fractures you think you had when you stubbed your foot all those years ago? Or were you simply born to develop hammertoes, as they are called?
If you believe any reason but the last one, then this posting will come as somewhat of a surprise for you. Hammertoes are common, and are an upward bending of part of the toes (except the big toe). They are deformities that can lead to pain in tighter shoes, painful corns, and sometimes sores in people with diabetes, poor circulation, or thin skin. What hammertoes are not is a result of years of bunching in tight shoes, cramming in heels, or bending from bone injuries (although some fractures can deform toes in different ways). Hammertoes nearly always are a result of the shape and structure of one's foot, the very same shape inherited by ones parents through genetics.
Hammertoes represent an imbalance between the muscles and tendons that pull the toes up, and those that pull the toes down, and between muscles in the leg that act on the foot, and muscles in the foot itself. In people with flat feet, the tendons pulling the toe down dominate and gradually cause hammertoes, while in people with high arches the tendons that pull the toe up dominate, causing a similar deformity called a clawtoe. More rarely, people have hammertoes because of neuromuscular disease, like cerebral palsy. However, this is a different process altogether and beyond the scope of this discussion, so I will leave it alone.
Your hammertoes have generally taken years to develop, and may have been difficult for you to notice by simply looking down on the toes. While it may seem that they have suddenly developed, this is generally never the actual case. Some people develop them in early childhood, and have trouble with their toes as teenagers. Most people, however, do not start developing problems until their thirties, forties and fifties, when corns start to develop as a result of chronic skin irritation from the pressure of a prominent toe bone below and a tighter shoe above.
So, back to the original question...who do YOU blame for your hammertoes. Well, it seems you can blame mom and dad, although not for the reason you at first thought. You can blame them for your hammertoes for the same reason you can blame them for your height, eye color, hair (or lack thereof), and foot size. Its all about the genetics, and your part in this condition is pretty much nonexistent.