Stop — hammer toe! No, really. Stop hammer toe. This bent-toed foot condition isn't so sexy to talk about, but it's sandal season, so why not, eh? Snug shoes, high heels, and narrow kicks can force the toes to bend inward, which in turn shrinks the muscles of the foot. Over time, the toes can bend permanently.
The best way to avoid this condition is to wear sensible shoes — more on this here — but if you favor fashion over orthopedics, exercises can help prevent hammer toe, too. (For instance, try to pick up a towel using your toes.) There are also a bunch of toe-focused foot exercisers out there, including Profoot Flex-Tastic ($9.99). The idea is to stretch your toes every day, much as you'd do yoga for the rest of your body, to realign toes. Goofy gimmick or brilliant idea? For my thoughts,
Flex-Tastic is similar to the widely advertised YogaToes, but at $10, it's one fifth of the price. Although I haven't tried YogaToes, I'd probably recommend Flex-Tastic simply because it stretches the toes while being more affordable. Putting them on can be a little bit tricky, because the one-size-fits-all aligners are fairly large. (I wear a size 8 shoe, and they slipped off from time to time — so if you have petite feet, these might not work for you.) Once they're on, they gently stretch your toes without you needing to do any special exercises; they need to be worn only five minutes at a time, but I like to wear them while watching old movies.
I don't see any huge cosmetic improvements, but after a long day of hoofing it, Flex-Tastic does make my feet feel better, and I've had fewer foot cramps. Even though they look pretty goofy, I don't mind wearing them, especially if the regular stretching can keep my feet looking decent and feeling limber. Insert your own "please, hammer toe, don't hurt 'em" joke as you see fit.