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.
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 in which they can't lie flat. This curled toe position might eventually 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.
- Abnormal balance of the toe muscles. The imbalance leads to instability, which can cause the toe to contract.
Factors that can increase you risk of hammertoe and mallet toe include:
- Age. The risk of hammertoe and mallet toe increases with age.
- Sex. Women are much more likely to develop hammertoe or mallet toe than are men.
- Toe length. If your second toe is longer than your big toe, it's at higher risk of hammertoe or mallet toe.
- Certain diseases. Arthritis and diabetes might make you more prone to developing foot deformities. Heredity might also play a role.
At first, a hammertoe or mallet toe might maintain its flexibility. But eventually, the tendons of the toe can contract and tighten, causing your toe to become permanently bent. Your shoes can rub against the raised portion of the toe or toes, causing painful corns or calluses.
July 28, 2017
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- Hammer toe. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00160. Accessed Dec. 16, 2015.
- Malloy A, et al. Mallet toe deformity. Foot and Ankle Clinics of North America. 2011;16:537.
- Hammer toes. American Podiatric Medical Association. http://www.apma.org/Learn/FootHealth.cfm?ItemNumber=1863. Accessed Dec. 16, 2015.
- Barbara Woodward Lips Patient Education Center. Selecting footwear for healthier feet. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2013.