Mallet toe is an abnormal foot condition that is identifiable upon visual inspection. Unlike a hammer toe the distal joint is the one affected instead of the more proximal one. What this means in lay terms is that the affected toe reaches towards the floor near the edge of the toe instead of in the middle. Improperly fitted footwear is the most common cause of mallet toe. The condition may be painful, disfiguring or both. Throughout the day your feet can change in size particularly if you are engaged in a high intensity activity. Increased blood flow causes tissue expansion and if your shoes are not roomy enough your toes can suffer. Mallet toe may also be the result of inactivity as patients who are unable to walk are deprived of the benefits stretching their muscles provides.

While mallet toe is commonly a second toe condition it can be found on any of the four small toes. Mallet toe is typically the result of cumulative damage. Shoes that are too small for the toes to freely wiggle restrict normal muscle movement. Over time a toe can lose its ability to move and the deformity becomes permanent. Surgical correction is possible however without an associated change in footwear the condition is likely to recur. Other ways to aquire a mallet toe include breaking the toe, conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, peripheral neuropathy, stroke and in rare cases may be a congenital defect. While a mallet toe may exist by itself, it may also combine with a hammer toe to form a claw toe, another undesirable condition.

Moral of the story: The most common cause of mallet toe can be prevented by wearing good shoes that fit.

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