Why Do My Toes Bend This Way?!

Do you have a toe or toes that look bent out of shape, but you don’t recall any trauma happening to them? You could have a case of Hammer Toe, Claw Toe or Mallet Toe!  Not to worry, they are not dangerous conditions to have, but they can be quite uncomfortable and most importantly- treatable and preventable!

While Hammer Toe, Claw Toe and Mallet Toe all look similar, it is a matter of which joint(s) in the toe that is bending, that classifies which condition you have.

A Hammer toe occurs when the proximal interphalangeal joint (PIP or middle joint) of the toe is bent abnormally.

A Claw toe occurs when both the middle joint (proximal interphalangeal/ PIP) and the first joint (distal interphalangeal joint/ DIP) is bent.

A Mallet toe occurs when only the first joint, known as distal interphalangeal, is bent.

Other symptoms include redness, swelling, calluses, corns and ulcers at the joint.



Causes for these conditions are often due to an imbalance in the muscles surrounding the joint.  When one of the muscles around the toe weakens, it loses its ability to bend or straighten out. Muscles can weaken for a few reasons:

– Poorly fitting shoes, that cause the toe to bend while wearing them (e.g. high heels or shoes that are too small)

– A broken toe that does not receive treatment and heals abnormally

– Nerve damage caused by diabetes

–  Arthritis


As with many foot related conditions, the sooner you address a hammer, claw or mallet toe, the easier it is to treat!  If the condition is relatively new, your podiatrist may instruct you to perform special foot exercises and stretches that are designed to strengthen your toe muscles.  They may also prescribe a special shoe insert or recommend special corn pads or foot straps to help relieve your pain.  In cases with high pain, your podiatrist may give you a cortisone injection.  If the condition is left untreated for too long, you may have to have surgery in order to repair the toe.

You can prevent an onset of hammer toe, claw toe or mallet toe by wearing shoes that provide ample wiggle room for your toes and arch support and, performing exercises that encourage your toes to stretch, wiggle and bend freely.

If you have noticed that one or more of your toes are bending in an abnormal manner, schedule an appointment with Dr. Hollander right away! He can provide you with the best method to treating your bent toe and getting it back into shape! Call today at (707) 578-1222 for questions and appointments.