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Hammertoes and Toe Deformities

When you have toes that are bent in an abnormal fashion, you probably have one of the conditions known as hammertoes, claw toes, or mallet toes. All three of these toe deformities are similar in some manner or another. Treatment for these respective conditions is best performed while they are still in early stages, so knowing how to recognize them will help you receive the care you need.

Toes Bent the Wrong Way

In spite of their similarities, each of these toe deformities has its own particular nuances that distinguishes it from the others:

  • Hammertoes – If your toe has an abnormal bend at the middle joint causing it to point down and towards the floor, this is the condition you are experiencing. In all likelihood, you will encounter this condition in the second toe.
  • Mallet Toes – In a similar fashion, this condition also is marked by an abnormal downwards bend. The key distinction is that this deformity’s bend takes place in the joint that is closest to the tip of the toe. It also most frequently affects the second toe.
  • Claw Toes – A major distinction between this particular deformity and the other two is that claw toe typically happens to all of the four smaller toes. Besides that difference, claw toes bend upwards at the joint where the toes meet the foot (the metatarsophalangeal joint), and then bend downwards at the other two joints, which creates a claw-like appearance.

Symptoms You Will Notice

The most prominent is simply the fact that the toes are bent in an abnormal manner and do not sit straight as they are intended. In addition, you will probably experience pain and discomfort when you walk. Your risk of developing calluses or corns on the toes is also increased. This happens because the deformed toes rub against the insides of footwear, which are not often designed for individuals with these issues.


The various causes of these conditions include poor-fitting footwear, arthritis, stroke, and traumatic injuries. Shoes can become a major issue when they are either too tight or too small and force the toes together. This is especially the case for high heels, since there is additional pressure on the toes and the front of the foot. When arthritis, stroke, or an injury affects the nerves or muscles in your feet and toes, the resulting muscular imbalance can cause a toe deformity like these to develop.


The best situation with regard to treating hammertoes and the other conditions is discovering it early while it is still flexible. These conditions are progressive and cannot be reversed, but we can implement measures to keep them from worsening. This is often done with the use of conservative methods like exercises, stretches, custom orthotics and padding.

Once a toe deformity has been present for some time, it will become rigid and conservative methods are no longer as effective. When we cannot reposition the toe or provide the pain relief you need, then it becomes time to discuss surgery as an option. The goal of any surgical procedure will be to straighten out the affected toes, and this is often accomplished by either releasing tendons that cause the issue or removing pieces of bone.


Not all cases of hammertoes, claw toes, or mallet toes are preventable, but you can take measures to decrease the risk. A great place to start is ensuring that you wear shoes that properly fit your feet. Too many foot issues stem from ill-fitting footwear, so pick styles that have wide, deep toe boxes. If you cannot wiggle your toes easily, it’s time to pick up a different pair.

Staying physically active can help decrease your risk of developing these conditions by promoting healthy circulation. Additionally, foot massages not only relieve stress and feel great, but they also can be beneficial in this area as well.

For further information on toe deformities, or to receive professional treatment, contact A Step Up Podiatry, LLC, today. Call our Manalapan Township, NJ office at (732) 446-7136 or use our online form to schedule your appointment.


A Step Up Podiatry, LLC
215 Gordons Corner Road, Suite 2A
Manalapan, NJ 07726
Phone: 732-646-6194
Fax: 732-446-7138

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