Hammertoe and mallet toe are two foot deformities that occur most often in women who wear high heels or shoes with a narrow toe box. These types of footwear may force your toes against the front of the shoe, causing an unnatural bending.
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 are most likely to occur in the toe next to your big toe.
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.
Hammertoe and mallet toe have been linked to:
- Certain shoes. High-heeled shoes or footwear that’s too tight in the toe box can crowd your toes into a space that’s not large enough for them to lie flat. This curled toe position may eventually persist even when you’re barefoot.
- Trauma. An injury in which you stub, jam or break a toe may make it more likely for that digit to develop hammertoe or mallet toe.
- Nerve injuries or disorders. Hammertoe and mallet toe are more common in people who have nerve damage in their feet, which often occurs with such medical problems as a stroke or diabetes.
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.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you have persistent foot pain that affects your ability to walk properly.