All You Need to Know About Mallet Toe Deformity

What is A Mallet Toe?

A mallet toe is a deformity that mostly affects a person’s second toe but can also develop in other toes as well. It is characterized by the bending of the joint that is closest to the end or tip of toe. The skin close to the toenail develops a corn that may even progress to an ulcer and cause much pain, swelling and redness.

Types of Mallet Toe:

There are mainly two different types of formations:

  • Flexible mallet toe formations are still in their developmental stage, which means that an affected toe is still moveable at its joint.
  • A rigid mallet toe is comparatively more symptomatic. It is characterized by tightening of the tendons and misalignment of the joints, which then get fixed in their position.

Causes of Mallet Toe:

A number of different disorders can lead to mallet toe formation, causing pain and swelling that makes it difficult for the foot to function the way as it should. It can make it difficult for a person to straighten the joint near the toe tip. Too much rubbing or friction of toe against shoe can result in development of corns which increases the pain. Consequently it is necessary that a person who is at the verge of developing a mallet should opt for loose, airy shoes as tight shoes can actually aggravate the condition. Sometimes toe injuries can lead to mallet toes. At other times, muscle and bone imbalances may cause mallet toe formations. Another condition that can later progress to is arthritis.

Mallet Toe Symptoms:

A patient can experience the following symptoms:

  • Formation of calluses or corns
  • Swelling and redness on an affected toe
  • Formation of toe ulcers in the diabetic patients

Mallet Toe Diagnosis:

The doctor is going to ask the patient questions about his or her medical history and lifestyle habits and try to find the presence of conditions such as poor circulation, arthritis, diabetes or different types of foot problems. The doctor may also recommend imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans and MRI scans as well as blood flow tests like Doppler ultrasound. If the doctor suspects that a patient might have nerve problems, then he/she may recommend seeing a neurologist who can perform nerve testing.

Mallet Toe Treatment:

While carrying out physical exam, a foot doctor will see whether the toe joint is flexible or fixed. A flexible toe joint can be straightened by using non-surgical procedures. On the other hand, a fixed toe is going to require a mallet toe surgery. In order to carry out the surgery, a doctor will first administer anesthetic so that the patient does not feel any pain. The degree and type of anesthesia (i.e. local, general, epidural or spinal) to be administered can differ from one case to another. The main goal of mallet toe surgery is to properly realign the patient’s toe, and may include any of the following procedures:

  • Lengthening or cutting of tendons
  • Inserting steel pin for holding the corrected posture of the toe
  • Removing a small part of the bone in order to realign toe
  • Amputating an affected toe


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