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Hammer, Claw, and Mallet Toes

Hammer, claw, and mallet toes are toes that bend into an odd position at one or more joints. This can be painful. They are most often caused by wearing tight shoes, which can cause the toe muscles to get out of balance.

  • A hammer toe bends down toward the floor at the middle toe joint. This causes the middle toe joint to rise up. It usually happens in the second toe.
  • Claw toe often affects the four smaller toes at the same time. The toes bend up at the joint where the toes and the foot meet. They bend down at the middle joints and at the joints nearest the tip of the toes. This causes the toes to curl down toward the floor.
  • A mallet toe bends down at the joint closest to the tip of the toe.

You may be able to fix your toe with home treatment. If you don't treat the problem right away, you are more likely to need surgery.

Last Revised: June 18, 2013

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Gavin W.G. Chalmers, DPM - Podiatry and Podiatric Surgery

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