The basic difference between hammertoe and mallet toe is the location of the damage to the toe joint:

  • In hammertoe, the problem is in the middle joint. 
  • With mallet toe, the pain and agony is centered in the upper joint

To a first degree, both conditions have similar root causes, such as overly tight shoes, metabolic issues, a rigorous work style without enough breaks, and so on. Symptoms of mallet toe and hammertoe are similar and include pain in the toe, a bent, almost claw-like deformity at the joint, and additional aberrations such as calluses and corns.

Genetics can play a pretty big role in determining who gets hammertoe or mallet toe and when. For instance, if you took two different women and forced them to wear high heels and work 18-hour shifts at a restaurant, one woman may develop hammertoe while the other might develop mallet toe, simply due to genetic differences.

Some people may become more prone to these foot problems because of the way they walk or the shape of their feet. Do understand: you can develop hammertoe, even if you wear proper footwear and get enough rest!

Diverse Possible Causes

Recognize that hammertoe and mallet toe are not “all about” bad-fitting shoes and genetics. Arthritis, stroke, and other muscular and nerve-related diseases can mess up the mechanics of your feet and damage your joints and tendons. Blood sugar problems—specifically diabetes-related neuropathy—can also render your toes more likely to be damaged. You may also have injured your toe or jammed it without realizing it.


Pain relief can come in the form of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, better shoes, orthotics or pads, and even surgery. Stretching exercises may also be recommended.

Connect with the team here at Healthmark Foot & Ankle today to set up an appointment with our board-certified Pennsylvania podiatrists. We can help you to get to the root of your hammertoe or mallet toe issues and help you feel better quickly. Call our Phoenixville foot clinic at 610-933-8644 or our Media office at 610-565-3668 to get the healing started.

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