Mallet Toe refers to a deformity of the distal interphalangeal (DIP) joint located near the tips of the toe. The condition causes the distal end of the toe to start pointing downwards and the middle portion of the toe to rise upwards. It can affect any of the small toes and hamper the normal functionality of the foot. Mallet Toe is most commonly observed in women.


  • Wearing tight shoes may contract and shorten the tendons that hold the foot joints. It may also cause rigidness of the supporting muscles which do not allow the toe to straighten
  • Use of high heels for prolonged period of time
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Previous foot injuries may damage the muscular balance of the joint or alter the shape of the bones


  • Visibly deformed or clawed toe that begins to curl towards the floor
  • Bunions may also be formed
  • Pain in the toe, particularly while wearing closed shoes
  • Calluses may develop as the middle of the toe rises like a bump and rubs against the shoe
  • Redness and swelling may be seen
  • Change in gait as the toe hurts while walking


  • Physical examination of the affected toe
  • Details of past injuries, type of shoes worn, duration spent standing or walking, medical conditions etc. may be taken into consideration
  • X-ray scan of the joint can reveal changes in the bone and soft tissue structure
  • The orthopedic doctor may attempt to straighten the toe manually to check if the deformity is rigid or flexible
  • Doppler ultrasound test may be conducted to check the flow of blood to the joint


  • In case of flexible deformity, Mallet Toe can be treated by conservative methods. For rigid deformities and those caused due to other associated conditions, surgery may be required. Treatment options may include:
  • The patient may be advised to wear open footwear, low heels, soft-soled shoes that allow the toes to stretch and do not rub against them
  • Customized shoes with increased foot arches or shoe inserts may be recommended
  • Pain killers and anti-inflammatory medicines may be prescribed to reduce swelling and tenderness
  • Buddy taping- The deformed toe can be taped with the adjoining one to provide support and allow it to straighten
  • Certain orthotic devices like toe splints or caps can protect and keep the toe straight


  • The patient may gently pull the deformed toe in a straight position and hold it for some time. This exercise can be done repeatedly to alter the shape of the toe.
  • Towel curls- Place a towel on the floor and try to crumple it with the toes. This is an effective exercise that can strengthen the tendons and restore joint flexibility


  • Surgical release of the tendons that cause the toe to bend
  • Arthroplasty- A part of bone may be removed from the toe joint to correct the deformity
  • Arthrodesis- Surgical fusion of the joint which allows new bone mass to grow
  • Physical therapy may be recommended after both surgical and conservative treatments to help restore joint functionality.

The foot specialists at OrthoTexas provide complete treatment for Mallet Toe and other medical conditions. Call 972-492-1334 to schedule an appointment.