Hammertoe And Mallet Toe

1 What are Hammertoe and Mallet Toe?

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.

These deformities can be as a result type of shoes you wear, foot structure, trauma and certain disease processes.

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 the second, third and fourth toes.

Relieving the pain and pressure of hammertoe and mallet toe may involve making footwear changes and wearing shoe inserts. In more severe case of hammertoe or mallet toe, surgery might be needed to get relief.

2 Symptoms

Abnormal bend in the joints of one or more of your toes (usually the second, third and fourth) is the main symptom of hammertoe and mallet toe.

Moving the affected toe may be difficult or painful.

Corns and calluses can result from the toe rubbing against the inside of shoes.

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3 Causes

Hammertoe and mallet toe can be caused by the following factors:

  • Certain shoes like high-heeled shoes or footwear that's too tight in the toe box can crowd the toes into a space in which they can't lie flat.
  • This curled toe position might eventually persist even when one is barefoot.
  • Another contributing cause of hammertoe and mallet toe is trauma.
  • An injury in which one stubs, jams or breaks a toe can make it more likely for that particular digit to develop hammertoe or mallet toe.
  • Abnormal balance of the toe muscles. The imbalance leads to instability, which can cause the toe to contract.

4 Making a Diagnosis

A doctor can diagnose hammertoe and mallet toe by examining the foot.

He or she might also order an x-ray to be done in order to further evaluate the bones and joints of the feet and toes.

5 Treatment

Several treatment methods exist for hammertoe and mallet toe.

If one’s toe is still flexible, their doctor might recommend that they change to roomier, more comfortable footwear and that they wear shoe inserts (orthotics) or pads.

Inserts or pads can reposition the toe and relieve pressure and pain. In addition, the doctor might suggest exercises — such as picking up marbles or crumpling a towel with the toes this is done in order to stretch and strengthen the toe muscles.

In situations where conservative treatments don't help, doctors might recommend surgery to release the tendon that's preventing the toe from lying flat.

In some cases, the surgeon also might remove a piece of bone to straighten the toe.

6 Prevention

One can prevent the development of hammertoe and mallet toe by wearing the right footwear.

Certain shoes like high-heeled shoes or footwear that's too tight in the toe box can crowd y toes into a space in which they can't lie flat.

Another  way is by avoiding any trauma as injury to a toe can make it more likely for it to develop hammertoe and mallet toe.

7 Risks and Complications

Factors that can increase you risk of hammertoe and mallet toe include:

  • Age. The risk of hammertoe and mallet toe increases with age.
  • Women are much more likely to develop hammertoe or mallet toe than are men.
  • Another factor is toe length. If one’s second toe is longer than their big toe, it's at higher risk of hammertoe or mallet toe.
  • Certain diseases. Arthritis and diabetes might make one more prone to developing foot deformities.
  • Genetics might also play a role.
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