A muscle imbalance is the most common cause of a hammertoe—a deformity in which the second, third, fourth, or fifth toe get stuck in a bent position, resembling a hammer. However, improper shoe wear can contribute to or worsen condition. For example, shoes that become more narrow toward the front or have a high heel can push the toes into a bent position and keep them that way. When muscles remain in the same position for too long, they can tighten and become stuck. Some symptoms of hammertoe include pain and irritation; corns and calluses; and swelling, redness, and burning. If caught early, most cases of hammertoe can be easily reversed. However, over time, the hammertoe can become rigid and require surgery to release the tendon that is keeping the toe bent or remove a piece of bone to straighten the toe. Conservative treatment includes wearing shoes that provide enough room for the toes to stretch out comfortably, taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen, splinting to align the toe, and performing exercises that strengthen and stretch the toe muscles, including wiggling the toes and using the toes to pick things up off of the floor, like marbles.