Hammer Toe and Mallet Toe are common deformities that occur often in women who wear high heels or shoes with a narrow toe box. These types of footwear can force your toes forwards into an unnatural position. Other causes can be impact trauma to the toes and also those with lower limb nerve injuries as well as Stroke or diabetes can be susceptible. Increased age can also be a risk factor to developing these deformities.
A hammer toe has an abnormal bend in the middle joint of a toe while the mallet deformity normally affects the joint closest to the nail. Both types of deformities are more likely to occur in the toe next to your big toe. Moving the affected toe may be difficult and painful and may lead to blisters and calluses.
Diagnosis is fairly simple and involves history taking, observation, palpation and sometimes x-ray imaging in serious cases.
This will involve first taking a conservative route and will involve changing your footwear to roomier styles, inserting orthotics such as Foot Levelers or pads to relieve pressure on the toes and doing simple stretching and strengthening exercises at home. All of this can be advised by your physiotherapist, and sometimes a podiatrist.
In more chronic cases it may be necessary to persue surgical intervention which will involve releasing the tendon which is stopping your toe from lying flat and perhaps moving small portions of bone.
The best cure is of course prevention – ensure at least half an inch of room between your toes and the end of your shoes, wear low heels, wear lace up shoes that can be easily adjusted. Always go shoe shopping at the end of the day when your feet are larger to ensure no pinching.
You can seek more advice on shoes, orthotics and treatment at Physio Savvy.