Hammertoe and mallet toe


Hammertoe and mallet toe are foot conditions characterized by a bending of one or more toes. Ill-fitting shoes, foot injuries, and certain medical conditions like diabetes are common causes, although sometimes the exact cause is unknown.

Mallet toe involves two specific areas of the body: the distal interphalangeal joint (DIPJ) and the flexor digitorum longus (FDL). The DIPJ is the joint closest to the toenail, while the FDL is a muscle that runs from the shin to the smaller toes, aiding in toe curling. When the FDL becomes too tight, it can lead to an upward bend in the toe joint. Conversely, hammertoe presents an unusual bend in the middle joint of a toe. Typically, these conditions affect the second, third, and fourth toes.

Treatment options include changing footwear, using shoe inserts, and employing other supportive devices to alleviate pain and pressure. In cases where conservative measures fail, surgery may be recommended to correct the condition and relieve discomfort.


Hammertoe and mallet toe are characterized by an abnormal bending in the joints of one or more toes. Additional symptoms may include:

  • Stiffness in the toe.
  • Inflammation and redness.
  • Challenges in moving the impacted toe.
  • Formation of corns and calluses due to friction with shoes or the ground.
  • Sores or ulcers on the toes, particularly in individuals with diabetes.
  • Discomfort caused by shoe wear.

Consult a doctor if persistent foot pain hinders your ability to walk.


Hammertoe and mallet toe are associated with:

  • Specific types of footwear. High-heeled shoes or shoes with a tight toe box can compress toes, preventing them from lying flat. Over time, this pressure may cause the toe to stay curled even when not wearing shoes.
  • Trauma. Toes that have been stubbed, jammed, or broken are at an increased risk of developing hammertoe or mallet toe.
  • Muscle imbalance in the toes. When the muscles are not evenly balanced, they can exert pressure on the tendons and joints, eventually leading to the development of hammertoe and mallet toe.
  • Arthritis 

Risk factors

Factors contributing to a higher risk of hammertoe and mallet toe include:

  • Gender. Women are more prone to developing hammertoe or mallet toe compared to men.
  • Specific health conditions. Conditions like arthritis and diabetes elevate the likelihood of experiencing foot issues. Genetic factors may also contribute to the risk.