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Hammertoe and mallet toe


Disease: Hammertoe and mallet toe Hammertoe and mallet toe
Category: Bones, joints, muscles diseases

Disease Definition:

When a toe is curled due to a bend in the middle joint of the toe, it is called a hammertoe. Although similar, but mallet toe affects the upper joint of a toe. Other than this, almost all of the differences between mallet toe and hammertoe are subtle.


Shoes that are too short or high heels could end up causing both hammertoe and mallet toe. Under these two conditions, the toe could be forced against the front of the shoe, causing unnatural bending of the toe and a hammer-like or claw-like appearance.


A person should change their footwear and wear shoe inserts in order to relieve the pain and pressure of hammertoe and mallet toe. However, someone may need surgery to experience relief in case they have a more severe case of hammertoe or mallet toe.

Work Group:

Symptoms, Causes


These are some of the signs and symptoms of mallet toe and hammertoe:


  • A hammer- or claw-like appearance of the toe
  • Pain and difficulty moving the toe
  • Corns and calluses due to the rubbing of the toe against the inside of the footwear
  • In mallet toe, a deformity at the end of the toe, giving the toe a mallet-like appearance.


A person will experience pain when walking or with other foot movements, both with hammertoe and mallet toe.


In case someone has foot pain that's persistent and affects their ability to walk properly as well as carry out other motions with their foot, then they should see a doctor. In case one or more of the toes has developed a clenched or claw-like appearance, a person should also see a doctor.


Wearing improper footwear such as high-heel shoes or shoes that are too tight in the toe box is one of the common causes of hammertoe and mallet toe because these shoes push the toes forward crowding one or more of them into a space that is not large enough to allow all the toes to lie flat.


Mallet toe and hammertoe may sometimes occur despite wearing appropriate footwear because they may be inherited.


This will cause a toe that is bended upward in the middle and then curled down in a hammer-like shape. Painful corns or calluses may result when the shoe rubs against the raised portion of the toe or toes. When the bottom of the affected toe presses down, it will create the mallet-like appearance of mallet toe.


At first, when a person isn't wearing crowded footwear, the hammertoe or mallet toe could maintain its flexibility and lie flat; however, the tendons of the toe will eventually contract and tighten and end up causing the toe to become permanently stiff.


Some of the other causes of mallet toe or hammertoe may be:


  • Arthritis, stroke, or other diseases that affect nerves and muscles.
  • An injury in which a person jams or breaks their toe
  • Diabetes (diabetic neuropathy), which could cause abnormal foot mechanics due to nerve and muscle damage to the toe.





A person may be recommended changing to roomier and more comfortable footwear in addition to wearing shoe inserts (orthotics) or pads in case their toe is still flexible. The toe may be repositioned, and the pressure and pain relieved by wearing inserts or pads.


However, someone may be recommended surgery in case their toe has become tight and inflexible. Based on how much flexibility is left in the toe, the appropriate procedure will be decided:


  • In case the toe has some flexibility, by making an incision in the toe and releasing the tendon, the doctor may straighten the toe.
  • In case the toe is rigid, the doctor may remove some pieces of bone as well as cut or realign tendons to straighten the toe. While the toe heals, the bones will be temporarily fixed with pins.


People usually return home from the hospital on the same day of the toe surgery.


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