Mallet Toe: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Mallet toe is a condition characterized by flexion position of the distal inter-phalangeal (DIP) joint of the outer four toes.

Hammer toe deformity may also be present along with it.

In people whom the second toe is longer than the great toe it is most common in the second toe.

Before reading on it would be good to first understand the anatomy of the foot (skip this if you already done so).

Causes include

  • abnormally long second toe ( when shoes are worn, the toe strikes the end of the shoe, so to accommodate its length the body flexes the toe; if this position continues then contracture of the distal joint of the toe develops)
  • stroke (muscle imbalance)
  • diabetes mellitus with sensory loss in the foot
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • injury to the toe

mallet toe

Symptoms include

  • abnormal position of the toe
  • due to persistent pressure a painful corn develops at the end of the toe

This deformity can be fixed (manually correctable) or flexible (manually not correctable).

Treatment includes

  • use of proper foot wear (wide toe box)
  • soft splint to hold the toe in correct position (to be avoided in sensory loss)
  • soft pads at the tip of the toe (to reduce the pressure)

If there is no response to the above treatment then surgery is done.

In young and active patients during surgery part of skin and bone is removed to correct the deformity. The bones are then held in place by a stainless steel wire called K wire.

In old and diabetic patients the flexor tendons are released. Then the deformity is passively corrected with gentle manipulation.

mallet toe operation

I hope the information provided was helpful. If you have any query you can ask me at the contact me page.

This page was last updated on 23th June 2009.

Other causes of foot pain...

Hallux Rigidus


Hammer Toe


Flat Foot


Heel Pain

Sesamoid Fracture

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Talus Fracture

Calcaneus Fracture

Foot Infection

Go back from Mallet Toe to Foot Pain


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