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In mallet toe, the joint at the end of the toe buckles. The skin near the toenail tip develops a painful corn that can eventually result in an ulcer. These can be extremely painful. The toe can become red and swollen. Because the second toe is typically the longest, it is the most likely to be affected by mallet toe.

Two types of mallet toe exist:

  • Flexible mallet toes are in the developmental stage and the affected toes are still moveable at the joint.
  • Rigid mallet toes are more symptomatic. The tendons tighten and the joints become misaligned and fixed in this position.

Symptoms of mallet toe include:

  • Redness and swelling on the affected toe.
  • Corns or calluses.
  • Toe ulcers in diabetic patients.

What causes mallet toes?

Mallet toe can result from the following:

  • Injury to the toe.
  • Shoes that are too tight.
  • Bone and muscle imbalances.
  • Arthritis.

How is this treated?

Non-surgical treatment of mallet toe includes:

  • Rubbing calluses with a pumice stone to keep them as thin as possible.
  • Wearing shoes with roomy toe boxes.
  • Wearing a cushioned pad over the toe, or beneath the toe tip.
  • Avoiding high heels.
  • Strengthening and stretching the toe muscles with exercises.

What are the risks of treatment?

Risks include nerve injury, infection, and stiffness. Recurrence of the toe deformity can occur, especially if you return to wearing ill-fitting shoes.

What do I need to do the day of surgery?

  • If you currently take any medications, take them the day of your surgery with just a sip of water.
  • Refrain from taking diabetic pills or insulin on the morning of surgery.
  • Do not wear any jewelry, body piercings, makeup, nail polish, hairpins or contacts.
  • Leave valuables and money at home.
  • Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing.

Reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional.

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