Hammertoe and mallet toe are similar conditions that affect the joints of the toes. They both cause an abnormal bend in the toe. The major difference between the two is where the damage occurs in the toe joint. Hammertoe affects the middle toe joint whereas mallet toe affects the upper toe joint nearest to the toenail. Seeing an experienced podiatrist is the best way to get the correct diagnosis and treatment.
Similarities and Differences
Both hammertoe and mallet toe can be caused by:
- Wearing tight shoes with little or no arch support
- Wearing high heels
- Having a metabolic issue or condition such as arthritis
- Having a trauma or injury to the toes
- Having nerve damage to the foot due to diabetes
- Having a second toe longer than the big toe
Hammertoe and mallet toe are also similar in the type of symptoms that they both can have. Symptoms of hammertoe and mallet toe include:
- Pain in the toe or toes
- Bent appearance of the toes
- Loss of toe flexibility
- Claw-like deformity
- Redness or swelling of the toes
- Additional foot problems such as corns, calluses, or sores
Some differences between hammertoe and mallet toe include:
- Toes affected. Mallet toe can affect any or all the toes. Hammertoe commonly affects the second toe and never the big toe.
- Joints affected. Hammertoe is a deformity of the inner joint of the toe. Mallet toe is a deformity of the outer joint.
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
If you are experiencing pain or symptoms of hammertoe or mallet toe, consult with your podiatrist for diagnosis and treatment options. Your podiatrist can diagnose either condition by a physical examination or may order an imaging test such as an X-ray to further evaluate your feet and toes.
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, treatment options for both conditions are the same. Treatment includes:
Pain medication such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) can help with pain and inflammation in the toes.
Wearing comfortable shoes with room in the toes can help prevent further problems and pain. A shoe with a high heel should be avoided since this can cause more pressure on the toes.
Orthotics or inserts can be worn in the shoes to help with the position of the toes and relieve any pressure or pain.
Padding can be placed over corns and calluses to help with pain and healing.
Stretching exercises for the toes can help strengthen toe and foot muscles.
Splinting of the toe or toes that are bent can be helpful.
If these treatment options fail, your podiatrist may recommend surgery. There are various surgical options that can be performed that are minimally invasive. Surgery can be done to correct the tendon that is causing the toe to be bent. In addition, surgery can be done to remove a fragment of bone in order to straighten the affected toe or to fuse the joint to relieve pain.
Preventing Hammertoe or Mallet Toe
Genetics can determine who will develop a condition such as hammertoe or mallet toe. Some people are more likely than others to develop these types of foot deformities. There are things to do to reduce your chance of developing hammertoe or mallet toe such as:
- Wear proper-fitting shoes that protect your toes.
- Seek treatment at first signs of the condition.
- Exercise the feet to strengthen the toes and keep them flexible.
Do You Need a Caring and Experienced Podiatrist?
If you are experiencing pain in your feet or ankles, have questions about hammertoes or mallet toes, and need help, contact our office for an evaluation. You can contact us online to schedule your appointment or call one of our convenient El Paso offices directly. To reach our Sierra Tower Building podiatrist office, please call 915.533.5151. You can find driving directions here. To reach our George Dieter Drive podiatry office, please call 915.856.3331. Driving directions are available here.