Hammertoe and mallet toe are similar conditions that cause a deformity of the toe joint. The main difference between the two is the location of the damaged toe joint. With hammertoe, the middle toe joint is affected and the toe curves downward similar to a claw. With mallet toe, the upper toe joint nearest the toenail is affected, and the tip of the toe remains bent. Both conditions cause an abnormal bend in the toe and typically affect the second, third, or fourth toe. Deformity of the toe

Common Causes and Symptoms

Hammertoe and mallet toe are deformities of the toes that can be due to a variety of factors. They both can be caused by the following:

  • Muscle or tendon imbalance
  • Structure of the foot
  • Trauma or injury to the foot or toes
  • Shoes that do not fit properly or have a high heel
  • Nerve damage

The most obvious signs that you have hammertoe or mallet toe is being unable to straighten your toe. This can cause problems such as:

  • Pain when wearing shoes
  • Problems with balance
  • Tripping
  • Blisters, corns, and calluses

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

An experienced podiatrist can diagnose both hammertoe and mallet toe. To diagnose either condition, a physical exam will be done and imaging tests may be ordered to evaluate the bones and joints of your toes and feet.

Once a diagnosis is made, treatment options will be recommended by your podiatrist based on the severity of your condition. Treatments for both conditions are similar and focus on managing pain and other symptoms. Some options are:

  • Change in footwear. Wearing shoes that have extra room in the toes can help reduce pain and pressure on the toe.
  • Custom orthotics. Using an orthotic inside your shoes can put your feet and toes in proper position and take pressure off the toes. In addition to an orthotic, a splint may be worn to hold the bent toe in place.
  • Padding. Padding can be placed over areas where calluses, corns, or blisters may form.
  • Medication. Taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication can help reduce pain and inflammation in the toe.
  • Exercises. Exercises can be done to stretch and strengthen the toe.
  • Surgery. Surgery may be an option to correct hammertoe and mallet toe if other options do not provide relief. Surgery can be done to straighten the affected toe or to fuse the joint.

Contact a Podiatrist

If you have questions about hammertoe or mallet toe, contact Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists. To schedule an appointment in our Grapevine or Keller office, fill out our online contact form, or call us today.


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