Hammer, Claw, and Mallet Toe

Similar disorders, including Mallet Toe, Hammer Toe, and Claw Toe, are all brought on by toe joint malformation.

Toe abnormalities can result from muscle or nerve damage, although they typically come about slowly from wearing uncomfortable shoes.

Muscle imbalance causes the toes to bend in strange ways, which can be exceedingly uncomfortable and restrict movement when walking or doing other activities.

Unlike Claw Toe, which affects all three toe joints, Hammertoe and Mallet Toe are caused by issues with just one toe joint.

With age, toe abnormalities become more prevalent and afflict 10% to 15% of people. Mallet, claw, or hammer toe are five times more common in women than in men. They might also result in additional issues like corns, calluses, and persistent toe stiffness.

What Deformities of the Toe Occur?

Joints and foot bones associated with the Hammer, Claw, and Mallet Toe

The big toe has two joints, while the other four toes each have three:

  • Toes begin at the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP), which is similar to the knuckles on your hands.
  • Middle toe joint: Proximal Interphalangeal Joint (PIP)
  • The end-toe joint is the distal interphalangeal joint (DIP).

The posture and functionality of the toes are regulated by muscles and tendons that are attached to these foot bones.

If the extensor digitorum longus (EDL), flexor digitorum longus (FDL), or intrinsic tendons become tight or weak, the joints are forced into the improper position, resulting in either a claw, hammertoe, or mallet toe.

What Makes Them Distinct?

Let's examine the differences between these three toe deformities:

  1. The hammer toe

Hammertoe is generated when the middle joint (PIP) bends down towards the floor (flexion) (flexion). The MTP and DIP joints above and below bend upward to make up for this (hyperextend). The middle portion of the toe pulls up as a result.

The most frequent malformation of the smaller, or toes other than the big toe, is hammertoe. Only one toe, usually the second, is typically affected.

  1. Mallet Toe

When the end toe joint (DIP) flexes continuously, mallet toe results. The toe's tip points downward as a result of the inability to straighten the toe.

The second toe is where mallet toe issues are most frequently found.

  1. Claw Toe

The toe bends upward at the MTP joint as a result of the distal two joints of the toe flexing downward.

The last two toe joints (DIP, PIP) bend to curl the toe downward, resulting in a claw toe. The first toe joint (MTP) hyperextends in response, causing the toe to flex upward where it connects to the foot.

The four outer toes are frequently affected at the same time by claw toe issues.

 Causes Of Common Toe Deformities

There are numerous factors that might lead to the development of Hammer, Claw, and Mallet Toes, including:

  • The most frequent cause of toe abnormalities like hammertoe and mallet toe is wearing tight-fitting, pointed, high-heeled shoes. The most frequent causes of claw, hammertoe, and mallet toes are wearing high heels or ill-fitting, too-tight shoes with a limited toebox. When shoes like these are worn for an extended period of time, the foot is kept slightly bent, which causes the muscles to gradually shorten and tighten over time. If this goes on for a long enough period of time, the foot muscles will tighten to the point where the toe will remain bent even after the shoes are taken off. Experts recommend wearing
  • Poor Blood Supply: Conditions such peripheral vascular disease that impact the blood and oxygen supply to the feet
  • Changing foot posture due to bunions or flat feet is a foot biomechanics issue.
  • Injury: Stress fractures and other past foot injuries
  • Neural difficulties include issues with the brain, spinal cord, or other parts of the central or peripheral nervous system.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, among other joint diseases


Back to blog