A mallet toe occurs when the joint at the end of the toe will not straighten. This is different from a hammertoe because in a hammertoe, any joint can be affected. Excessive rubbing of the deformity against the top of a shoe will lead to the development of a corn and pain. The tip of the toe is often turned down against the shoe, causing pressure and discomfort. Those with mallet toes are often embarrassed by this deformity because it can stick out like a sore thumb. When left untreated, the pigment of the skin on the mallet toe can become dark and circular.
Causes of mallet toes include:
- If you are on your feet all day.
- Participate in sports regularly.
- Have arthritis
- Have nerve damage in your back, leg, or foot.
- Have very high or very flat arches.
- Wear shoes that don't fit
- Were born with a toe deformity.
Other factors include poor circulation, diabetes, edema, and wearing non-leather shoes. Complications of the mallet toe can lead to puss, infection, and swelling, as well as a change in gait pattern because of pain.
Conservative treatments for mallet toes include:
- Wearing shoes with a large, square toe box.
- A toe crest or buttress pad.
- Gel toe caps or shields.
If your mallet toe is causing significant pain or has progressed to an infection, call a podiatrist to make an appointment. Surgical treatments a podiatrist may try are:
- Amputation of the tip of the toe (only if gangrene or severe infection is present).
- Joint fusion of the toe.
- Partial bone/joint removal.
- Flexor tenotomy or lengthening.