A hammer toe is a deformity of the second, third, or fourth toe causing it to be permanently bent at the proximal interphalangeal joint, resembling a hammer. Mallet toe is another name for this condition when affecting the distal interphalangeal joint.
Hammer toe most often results from wearing poorly-fit shoes that can force the toe against their tip, such as excessively high heels or shoes that are too short or narrow for the foot. This can lead to subluxation of the metatarsal phalangeal joints and formation of a hammer toe, often found in conjunction with bunions or other foot problems. It can also be caused by muscle, nerve, or joint damage resulting from conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, stroke, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease or diabetes.
In many cases, conservative treatment consisting of physical therapy and new shoes with soft, spacious toe boxes is enough to resolve the condition, while in more severe or longstanding cases orthopedic surgery may be necessary to correct the deformity.