A hammertoe is a toe that's curled due to a bend in the middle joint of a toe. Mallet toe is similar, but affects the upper joint of a toe. Otherwise, any differences between hammertoe and mallet toe are subtle.
Both hammertoe and mallet toe are commonly caused by shoes that are too tight in the toe box or shoes that have high heels. Under these conditions, your toe may be forced against the front of your shoe, resulting in an unnatural bending of your toe and a hammer-like or claw-like appearance.
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 may need surgery to experience relief.
Signs and symptoms of hammertoe and mallet toe may include:
Both hammertoe and mallet toe can cause pain with walking and other foot movements.
A common cause of hammertoe and mallet toe is wearing improper footwear — shoes that are too tight in the toe box or shoes that have high heels. Wearing shoes of either type can push your toes forward, crowding one or more of them into a space that's not large enough to allow your toes to lie flat.
Hammertoe and mallet toe deformities can also be inherited and may occur despite wearing appropriate footwear.
The result is a toe that bends upward in the middle and then curls down in a hammer-like or claw-like shape. Your shoes can rub against the raised portion of the toe or toes, causing painful corns or calluses. The bottom of the affected toe can press down, creating the mallet-like appearance of mallet toe.
At first, a hammertoe or mallet toe may maintain its flexibility and lie flat when you're not wearing crowded footwear. But eventually, the tendons of the toe may contract and tighten, causing your toe to become permanently stiff.
Other causes of hammertoe and mallet toe may include:
Copyright 2011 Dr. Edward R. Cohen Podiatry.
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