Comparing Lesser Toe Conditions
The second, third and fourth toes on each foot comprise three small bones and two joints. Many people are familiar with claw toes where these lesser toes are bent under in a clawed position. And hammer toes are commonly seen in people with bunions: in this condition, the toe next to the big toe is pushed up and back toward the foot causing the joint furthest from the nail to stick up. However, when a toe is bent down toward the ground at the joint closest to the nail and fixed, this is known as a mallet toe.
Tight shoes or shoes that are too short are causative factors of mallet toes, but this structural deformity commonly affects people born with long lesser toes relative to the big toe. Pressure on the ends of the toes over a long period of time causes the toe muscles to tighten and the tendons which connect the bones to the muscles to shorten. Over time, the once flexible joints become fixed in a bent position. This condition can also occur secondary to systemic conditions like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
Conservative treatment of mallet toes involves supporting the affected toes with silicon splints and treating any corns that may form on the top of the joint. If the joints are still flexible, it may be possible to correct the problem using custom made orthotics, exercises and more spacious footwear. Once the joint becomes fixed, surgical intervention may be the only option. Podiatrists like Sheldon H. Nadal, D.P.M., based in Toronto, perform minimally invasive procedures. This type of surgery results in less pain and a shorter recovery period.