Hammer, Claw, and Mallet Toes - Topic Overview
How are hammer, claw, and mallet toes diagnosed? continued...
During the physical exam, your doctor will look at your
foot to see if the toe joint is fixed or flexible. A joint that has some movement can sometimes be straightened without surgery. A fixed joint often requires surgery.
If you are thinking about having surgery to correct your
problem, you may need:
X-ray to help the doctor decide what type of surgery would be most helpful.
- Blood flow testing, which
Doppler ultrasound, if your foot seems to have poor blood flow.
- Nerve testing if your doctor thinks you have nerve problems
in your foot. If this is the case, you may need to see a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in brain, spine, and nerve problems.
How are they treated?
You can probably treat your toe joint problem at
home. If you start right away, you may be able to avoid surgery.
- Change your footwear. Choose shoes with roomy toe boxes, low heels, and good arch supports. Sandals or athletic shoes that don't rub on your toe may be a good option. You could also try custom-made shoes or shoes made for people who have foot problems.
- Use products that cushion the toe
or hold the foot in a more comfortable position, such as
moleskin, pads, arch supports, or other
shoe inserts (orthotics). These are better for
treating a flexible toe, but they can also provide some relief for a
- Care for any
calluses or corns on your feet.
Moleskin and other over-the-counter treatments may help
relieve pain. Never cut corns or calluses, because this can lead to
- Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen. Check with your doctor before
taking these medicines.
If your toe joint is flexible, you can also try:
- Taping a hammer toe. Wrap tape under the big toe (or the toe next to the
hammer toe), then over the hammer toe, and then under the next toe. This gently
forces the hammer toe into a normal position. But it doesn't straighten the toe
- Toe caps, slings, or splints. These hold toes in a
normal position, much like taping does.
- Exercises that help
keep the toe joints flexible and strong, such as the ones listed below. Your doctor or physical therapist may
be able to suggest more exercises.
- Gently pull on your toes to stretch the bent joints. For
example, if a joint bends up, gently stretch it down. Hold for several seconds. You should feel a long, slow, gentle pull. Work on one joint at
a time. Do this several times, morning and evening.
- Do towel curls . Put a
towel flat under your feet and use your toes to
- Do marble pickups . Use your toes to pick up marbles and drop them in a cup.
Call your doctor if your pain doesn't go
away or it gets worse after 2 to 3 weeks of home treatment, or if you get a sore
on your affected toe. Sores can get infected and lead to
osteomyelitis, especially if you have
peripheral arterial disease.