Mallet toe is a medical condition affecting the foot’s second toe (next to the big toe). It is a deformity in which the end of the toe bends downward, resembling a mallet or hammer shape, rather than lying straight. In more severe cases, it may cause pain and difficulty with walking. The condition occurs when one of the muscles that flex the toe becomes too tight and causes it to curl downward instead of upward when walking. In some cases, a mallet toe can be caused by wearing shoes that squeeze the toes together, such as high heels or narrow-toed shoes. It can also be caused by trauma to the area due to an injury or accidents involving the feet.
Common signs and symptoms of mallet toe include pain when standing or walking, redness and swelling in the affected area, difficulty straightening out or bending down the affected toe, and corns or calluses on the top of or around the affected joint. It can be treated with simple lifestyle changes and medications, such as adequately fitting footwear to reduce pressure on the toes and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain.
To promote flexibility in the area, stretching exercises may also help lessen discomfort, while icing several times per day will assist in reducing swelling and inflammation. In addition, custom orthotics or shoe inserts explicitly designed for mallet toe offer additional benefits when dealing with this affliction — though more severe cases may require surgical intervention to realign bones impacted by deformations caused by mallet toe.