If your toes appear crooked or bent downward you may be suffering from hammer toes, mallet toes or claw toes. These three very similar toe deformities result in shortening of the toe tendons thereby limiting toe motion, causing claw-shaped toes and painful rubbing inside shoes.
A hammer toe, mallet toe or claw toe is a toe that is contracted at one or more of the joints of the toe, leading to severe pressure and pain. Ligaments and tendons that have tightened cause the toe’s joints to curl downwards. Hammer, mallet and claw toes may occur in any toe, but rarely the big toe. There is often discomfort at the top part of the toe that is rubbing against the shoe and at the tip of the toe where excessive pressure often causes painful corns. Hammer toes are classified based on the mobility of the toe joints. There are two types – flexible and rigid. In a flexible hammer toe, the joint has the ability to move. This type of hammer toe can be straightened manually. Movement is very limited and can be extremely painful. This sometimes causes foot movement to become restricted leading to extra stress at the ball-of-the-foot and possibly causing pain as well as the development of corns and calluses.
Symptoms, Causes and Common Treatments
- Toes that appear crooked or bent
- Distorted position of one or more toe joints
- Toes that curl up and rub on the inside of the shoe
- Poor foot function such as over pronation (excessive inward rolling of the foot) or oversupination (excessive outward rolling of the foot) are common causes of hammer, mallet and claw toes.
- Poor fitting shoes are also a common cause.
- Various forms of arthritis can also lead to many different forefoot deformities, including hammer, mallet and claw toes.
Changing the type of footwear worn is a very important step in addressing hammer toes. When choosing a shoe, make sure the toe box (toe area) is high and broad, and can accommodate the misshapen toes. A shoe with a high, broad toe box will provide enough room in the forefoot area so that there is less friction against the toes. If over pronation or over supination exist, arch supports can improve or restore proper foot function and reduce further development of the deformity. If the deformity is flexible, the use of arch supports, hammer toe splints, and custom toe splints can improve and, in some cases, restore proper toe position and function. The use of gel toe sleeves, hammer toe crests and pads can stop rubbing and reduce or eliminate painful corns and calluses.
Foot Solutions Products
- Supportive athletic, casual or dress shoes
- Custom-fitted, custom-crafted arch supports (orthotics) Over-the-counter arch supports (orthotics)
- Custom toe splints
- Gel toe shields and caps
- Hammer toe crests, splints and pads