Dealing with Claw Toes and Mallet Toes

Think you may have mallet or claw toes? Mallet and claw toes form over years and are common in adults. Mallet and claw toes are among the most common toe problems. If you think you have mallet or claw toes, see a podiatrist right away. If you don't treat the problem right away, you are more likely to need surgery. Here's what you need to know about claw and mallet toes.

What Are Mallet and Claw Toes?

Mallet and claw toes are toes that are bent into an abnormal position. They may hurt or look odd, or both. These toe deformities usually occur in the small toes, not the big toes. Claw toe often affects the four small toes at the same time. The toes bend up at the joint where the foot and toes meet. This causes the toes to curl downward. Mallet toes often affect the second toes, but it may occur in the other toes too. Mallet toes bend down at the joint closest to the tip of the toes. 

What Causes These Conditions?

Tight footwear is the most common cause of mallet and claw toes. Wearing tight footwear can cause the muscles of the toes to get out of balance. Less often, these conditions are linked with other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, stroke, or an injury to the ankle or foot. Women are affected more often than men because they are more likely to wear narrow shoes or high heels.

How Are They Diagnosed?

Your podiatrist will take a detailed medical history and ask about your daily activities and footwear. A physical examination comes next, in which the level of deformity and scope of pain will be assessed. Diagnosis of these claw and mallet toes is usually obvious from the physical exam. To further evaluate the joints and bones of your feet and confirm a diagnosis, your podiatrist may order x-rays or other imaging tests.

How Are They Treated?

Buying shoes with more room in the toes, filing down calluses and corns, and padding the toes most often relieve the pain. If you have pain, your doctor may put a splint or pad on the toe. A custom orthotic device may be placed in your shoe to help control the muscle/tendon imbalance and alleviate your pain. This keeps the toe from rubbing on the top of the shoe. Corticosteroid injections are sometimes used to ease pain and inflammation. If these steps don’t work, you may need surgery to straighten the toes.

Podiatric medicine a branch of science that is devoted to the study, diagnosis, and treatment of conditions of the ankle, foot, and lower extremity. Podiatrists diagnose and treat various foot problems, including claw and mallet toes. They offer a variety of treatments for claw and mallet toes. If you think you may have claw or mallet toes, a podiatrist in your area can help you achieve real relief.

Author
Associated Foot & Ankle Centers of Northern Virginia, PC

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