Low-heeled shoes that leave enough room for the toes can help prevent this bend in a toe or ease the pain of it.
Hammertoe and mallet toe are foot problems that cause a bend in a toe or toes. Wearing shoes that don't fit well can cause hammertoe and mallet toe. Other causes are foot injury and certain illnesses, such as diabetes. Often the cause isn't known.
A hammertoe has an unusual bend in the middle joint of a toe. Mallet toe has a bend in the joint nearest the toenail. Hammertoe and mallet toe usually occur in the second, third and fourth toes.
Changing footwear, wearing shoe inserts, and using other devices might relieve the pain and pressure of hammertoe and mallet toe. Surgery can correct the condition and relieve the pressure if these treatments don't work.
A hammertoe is curled due to a bend in the middle joint of the toe.
Hammertoe and mallet toe have an unusual bend in the joints of one or more of the toes. Other symptoms include:
See a health care provider if you have lasting foot pain that affects your ability to walk.
Hammertoe and mallet toe have been linked to:
Factors that can increase the risk of hammertoe and mallet toe include:
For a while, the toe still might be able to unbend. But over time, the tendons and joints of a hammertoe or mallet toe might tighten. This can cause the toe to stay bent.
Shoes can rub against the higher part of the bent toe. The bent position also may lead to excess pressure on the bone of the toe tip instead of the fat pad on the toe. This can cause painful corns or calluses.
Shoes that fit well can prevent many foot, heel and ankle problems. Here's what to look for when buying shoes:
These added tips can help buying the right shoes:
To diagnose hammertoe or mallet toe, a health care provider inspects the foot. X-rays can help show the bones and joints of the feet and toes. But they're not always needed.
For toes that can still unbend, roomier footwear and shoe inserts, called orthotics, or pads might give relief. Inserts, pads or taping can move the toe and ease pressure and pain.
Also, your health care provider might suggest exercises to stretch and strengthen toe muscles. These might include using toes to pick up marbles or scrunch a towel.
If these treatments don't help, your care provider might suggest surgery. The surgery can release the tendon that's keeping the toe curled up. Sometimes, the surgeon also removes a piece of bone to straighten the toe.
Good footwear can ease foot pain. Wear low-heeled shoes with a big toe box made of material that has some give to it. Make sure there's a half-inch (1.27 centimeters) of space between your longest toe and the inside tip of the shoe. Having enough space for your toes will help relieve pressure and pain.
If you're having a problem with your feet, you'll likely start by seeing your primary care provider. Or you may be referred to a foot specialist, either a podiatrist or orthopedist.
Before your appointment, make a list of:
For hammertoe or mallet toe, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
Your health care provider is likely to ask you questions, such as: