Hammertoe and mallet toe are foot deformities that more commonly occur in women who wear high heels or shoes with a narrow toe box.

A hammertoe has an abnormal bend in the middle joint of a toe. On the other hand, mallet toe affects the joint nearest to the toenail. Both deformities are more likely to occur in the toe next to the big toe.

Changes in footwear and wearing shoe inserts may help relieve the pain and pressure associated with hammertoe and mallet toe. A more severe deformity may require surgery to relieve symptoms.



The movement of a toe affected by hammertoe or mallet toe can be difficult and painful. The rubbing of the toe against the inside of the shoes can cause corns and calluses to form.



Possible causes of hammertoe and mallet toe may include:


  • Certain shoes: high-heeled shoes or shoes with a narrow toe box may not have enough space for the toes to lie flat.
  • Trauma: an injury that jams or breaks a toe may make it prone to develop hammertoe or mallet toe.
  • Nerve injuries or disorders: certain medical conditions such as stroke or diabetes may cause nerve damage in the feet, which may lead to the development of hammertoe and mallet toe.


Risk factors

Factors that increase the risk of hammertoe and mallet toe may include:


  • Age: the risk of hammertoe and mallet toe increases with age
  • Gender: women have a higher risk of developing hammertoe or mallet toe than men
  • Toe length: a second toe that is longer than the big toe may be more prone to develop hammertoe and mallet toe



A possible complication of hammertoe and mallet toe affects the tendons of the toe. In time, the tendons of the toe may contract and tighten causing the toe to become permanently stiff. Painful corns or calluses may form on the raised portion of the toe due to persistent rubbing against the shoes.



Wearing the proper shoes can prevent numerous feet, heel and ankle problems. The following are tips on adequate footwear:


  • Adequate toe room
  • Low heels
  • Adjustability
  • Shoes that fit just right
  • Shoe size can change
  • Buy shoes at the end of the day due to feet swelling