A mallet toe is a flexible or fixed deformity of the DIP joint of the toe. It is less common than the hammertoe in the United States, but has been found to occur on the longest toe more often than the second or fourth toe.
The deformity of a mallet toe is usually idiopathic and is a result from wrong shoe wear, congenital abnormalities, iatrogenic causes, trauma, pes cavus, and neuromuscular disorders.
When to See a Doctor?
When an occasional cosmetic deformity is acknowledged, the physical should look through a thorough history of trauma or family history along with associated infections or previous surgery.
Causes of Mallet Toe
When the patient is experiencing pain with a mallet toe, it originates from either pressure on the nail or callosity.
Shoes that are high-heeled or too tight can crowd your toes into a tight space. This is called a curled toe position which might eventually continue even when barefoot.
Injuries of jamming, stubbing or breaking a toe will also be the cause of developing a mallet toe.
Imbalance of the Toe Muscles
A toe muscle imbalance will result to instability leading to contracting of the toe.
Risk Factors of Mallet Toe
Length of Toes
A larger second toe puts you at a higher risk of developing mallet toe.
Studies show that females are more likely at risk of developing a mallet toe than males.
As we age, the risk of developing mallet toe increases. Simply due to the weakening of the bones!
Cases of diabetes and arthritis have the ability to make you more at risk of developing deformities, especially on the foot. Heredity may also play a huge role in mallet toe development.
Complications of the Mallet Toe
During the beginning, the mallet toe might still be able to maintain flexibility but will eventually cause the tendons to tighten and contract uncontrollably. The toe itself may bend permanently as your shoes may also rub against the raised portion of your toes and cause painful calluses or corns.
Prevention and Treatment
Any problems with the feet can cause discomfort and pain, therefore should receive proper attention and treatment. By ignoring the symptoms, this can aggravate the conditions of the mallet toe and result to damage of the tissue – or even a possible infection.
Mallet toes that receive conservative treatment will have the main goal of relieving pressure, transferring forces from sensitive areas, and reduce such friction.
If your toe is still flexible, you made be recommended to change your shoes to more comfortable spacious footwear along with special orthopedic pads or inserts. These will help reposition your toe and elevate such pain and pressure.
Your doctor or healthcare provider might also suggest daily therapeutic exercises such as crumpling a towel or picking up marbles with your toes to help strengthen and stretch your toe muscles. If by circumstance that those conservative treatments don’t work, you might also be recommended to undergo surgery to help release tension on the tendon that prevents your toes from lying flat.
The surgeon might also remove a small part of the bone to help straighten your toe in some cases. Shoes with a broad and high toe box are highly recommended for those suffering from mallet toe deformities as this helps prevent more irritation in the toes from developing even further.
There are other conservative treatments which includes gel toe caps, gel toe crests and gel toe shields. The gel forefoot supports offer fast comfort and relief from pains that are caused by common foot disorders without the risk of drying the skin.
Once you have determined that there is a problem with your toes, you will start seeing you’re physical or immediately be referred to a foot specialist. Be sure to make a list of your symptoms beforehand and include any relations to your problem. Get a hold on all of your key information such as recent or major stresses, life changes and your family medical history. Bring your medications, supplements and vitamins that are you currently taking along with your allergies.
Be sure to write a list of your own questions to ask your doctor. This includes:
- What are the likely causes of foot problems?
- What tests will you need to undergo
- What is your conditional – chronic or temporary?
- What is the best plan?
- Are there any alternatives?
Wearing the right footwear has been proven to help ease your foot pain as well as low-heeled shoes and flexible material that covers the toes. Allow your shoes to provide adequate space to help relieve pain and pressure for your toes.