Aches and pains occur in virtually every part of the body, but foot pain can be particularly debilitating. Simple daily tasks like walking and climbing stairs become excruciating, and you may find that your productivity becomes limited as you try to avoid painful situations.
Hammertoe and mallet toe are two foot deformities that occur due to a muscle and ligament imbalance around the toe joint. Hammertoe specifically affects the middle joint of the toe, while mallet toe affects the joint closest to the toenail. Both these conditions typically occur in the second, third and fourth toes.
Symptoms of hammertoe and mallet toe include:
- Pain on top of the bent toe when wearing shoes
- Corns that form on the bent toe joint
- Swelling and redness in the affected joint
- Difficulty moving the affected toe joint
- Pain when trying to move the joint
- Pain on the ball of the foot beneath the affected toe
The most common causes of hammertoe and mallet toe include trauma, imbalance of the toe muscles and shoes with narrow toe boxes that do not allow the toes to lie flat (pointy flats or high heels). Certain risk factors can also increase your likelihood of developing these foot conditions. These include age, gender (women are at higher risk than men), toe length, heredity, and certain diseases such as arthritis and diabetes.
If hammertoe or mallet toe produces persistent pain that interferes with your productivity or quality of life, it’s time to see a doctor. A physical examination and possibly x-rays may be necessary to examine the bones and joints in your feet.
Treatment for hammertoe and mallet toe will depend on the severity of your condition. If the affected toe is still flexible, your doctor may recommend supportive shoes with a roomy toe box and orthotic inserts to support your toe and relieve pressure. You may also receive exercises to stretch and strengthen your toe muscles. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to remove bone or release the tendon that is preventing the toe from lying flat (Source: Mayo Clinic).