Hammertoe and mallet toe — Comprehensive overview covers causes, symptoms and treatment of these foot deformities.
Hammertoe and mallet toe are foot deformities that occur due to an imbalance in the muscles, tendons or ligaments that normally hold the toe straight. The type of shoes you wear, foot structure, trauma and certain disease processes can contribute to the development of these deformities.
A hammertoe has an abnormal bend in the middle joint of a toe. Mallet toe affects the joint nearest the toenail. Hammertoe and mallet toe usually occur in your second, third and fourth toes.
Relieving the pain and pressure of hammertoe and mallet toe may involve changing your footwear and wearing shoe inserts. If you have a more severe case of hammertoe or mallet toe, you might need surgery to get relief.
Hammertoe and mallet toe feature an abnormal bend in the joints of one or more of your toes. Moving the affected toe may be difficult or painful. Corns and calluses can result from the toe rubbing against the inside of your shoes.
Hammertoe and mallet toe have been linked to:
Factors that can increase your risk of hammertoe and mallet toe include:
At first, a hammertoe or mallet toe might maintain its flexibility. But eventually, the tendons of the toe can contract and tighten, causing your toe to become permanently bent. Your shoes can rub against the raised portion of the toe or toes, causing painful corns or calluses.
You can avoid many foot, heel and ankle problems with shoes that fit properly. Here's what to look for when buying shoes:
These additional tips can help you buy the right shoes:
Your doctor can diagnose hammertoe or mallet toe by examining your foot. Your doctor might order X-rays to further evaluate the bones and joints of your feet and toes.
If your toe is still flexible, your doctor might recommend that you change to roomier, more comfortable footwear and that you wear shoe inserts (orthotics) or pads. Inserts or pads can reposition your toe and relieve pressure and pain.
In addition, your doctor might suggest exercises — such as picking up marbles or crumpling a towel with your toes — to stretch and strengthen your toe muscles.
If conservative treatments don't help, your doctor might recommend surgery to release the tendon that's preventing your toe from lying flat. In some cases, the surgeon also might remove a piece of bone to straighten your toe.
Wearing proper footwear may ease your foot pain. Low-heeled shoes with a deep toe box and flexible material covering the toes can help. Make sure there's a half-inch (1.27 centimeters) of space between your longest toe and the inside tip of your shoe. Allowing adequate space for your toes will help relieve pressure and pain.
Avoid over-the-counter medicated corn-removal products, many of which contain acid that can cause severe skin irritation. It's also risky to try shaving or cutting an unsightly corn off your toe. Foot wounds can easily get infected, and foot infections are often difficult to treat, especially if you have diabetes or poor circulation.
If you're having a problem with your feet, you'll likely start by seeing your primary care provider. Or you may be referred immediately to a foot specialist (podiatrist or orthopedist).
Before your appointment, make a list of:
Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember the information you're given.
For hammertoe or mallet toe, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
Your doctor is likely to ask you questions, such as:
October 2nd, 2021