Mallet toe and hammertoe are foot malformations that transpire due to an irregularity in the muscles, ligaments or tendons that usually hold the toe straight. The type of footwear you wear, foot structure, injury and particular disease processes can contribute to the growth of these deformities.
A hammertoe has an unusual 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 discomfort and stress of hammertoe and mallet toe may involve replacing your footwear and wearing shoe inserts. If you have a more critical case of hammertoe or mallet toe, you might need surgery to get a release.
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 has been linked to:
Certain shoes. High-heeled shoes or footwear that’s too snug in the toe box can squeeze your toes into an area in which they can’t lie flat. This curled toe position might ultimately persist even when you’re barefoot.
Trauma. An injury in which you stub, jam or break a toe can make it more likely for that digit to develop hammertoe or mallet toe.
The abnormal balance of the toe muscles. The imbalance leads to instability, which can cause the toe to contract.
Factors that can increase your risk of hammertoe and mallet toe include:
- Age. The risk of hammertoe and mallet toe increases with age.
- Sex. Women are much more inclined to produce hammertoe or mallet toe than are men.
- Toe length. If your second toe is longer than your large toe, it’s at greater risk of hammertoe or mallet toe.
- Certain diseases. Arthritis and diabetes may make you more prone to generating foot deformities. Heredity might also play a role.
At first, a hammertoe or mallet toe might preserve its flexibility. But ultimately, the ligaments of the toe can constrict and tighten, lettletting your toe to become permanently bent. Your shoes can rub against the raised part of the toe or toes, causing painful corns or calluses.
Adequate toe room. Dodge shoes with pointed toes.
Low heels. Bypassing high heels will assist you to avoid back problems.
Adjustability. Laced or strapped shoes are roomier and adjustable.
These additional tips can assist you buy the right shoes:
Buy footwear at the end of the day. Your feet expand during the day.
Check your size. As you age, your shoe size might vary — particularly the diameter. Measure both feet and buy for the larger foot.
Buy shoes that fit. Be sure shoes are comfortable before you buy them. If necessary, a shoe repair store might be able to stretch shoes in tight spots, but it’s better to buy them to fit.
Your physician can diagnose hammertoe or mallet toe by checking your foot. Your physician might order X-rays for additional assessment of the joints and bones of your feet and toes.
If your toe is still pliable, your physician might advise that you transfer to roomier, more relaxed footwear and that you wear shoe inserts (orthotics) or pads. Inserts or pads can reposition your toe and relieve tension and pain.
Also, 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 conventional treatments don’t help, your physician might suggest surgery to release the tendon that’s limiting your toe from lying flat. In some cases, the surgeon also might exclude a piece of bone to straighten your toe.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Wearing fitting footwear may alleviate your foot pain. Low-heeled shoes with a deep toe box and flexible elements covering the toes can help. Make sure there’s a half-inch (1.27 centimeters) of the area 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 merchandises, many of which contain acid that can cause severe skin irritation. It’s also risky to try shaving or to cut deformed corn off your toe. Foot wounds can quickly get infected, and foot infections are often difficult to manage, especially if you have diabetes or poor circulation.
Preparing for your appointment
If you’re having difficulty with your feet, you’ll likely start by seeing your primary care provider. Or you may be referred quickly to a foot specialist (podiatrist or orthopedist).
What you can do
Before your appointment, make a list of:
- Your symptoms, including any that appear unrelated to the reason for your appointment
- Key personal information, including major stresses, recent life adjustments and family medical history
- All vitamins, medications or other supplements you take, including the dosages
For hammertoe or mallet toe, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
What are other possible causes?
What’s likely causing my foot problems?
Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
What tests do I need?
What’s the best course of action?
Am I a candidate for surgery? Why?
What are the options to the primary approach you’re suggesting?
Are there restrictions I need to follow?
Are there brochures or other written material I can have? What websites do you recommend?
Should I see a specialist?
Don’t pause to ask other questions.
What to expect from your doctor
Your physician is likely to ask you questions, such as:
How much pain is your feet or toes causing you?
When did your foot problems begin?
Where is the pain situated?
What, if anything, seems to change your symptoms?
What type of shoes do you normally wear?
What, if anything, seems to worsen your symptoms?