One of the conditions I see in my office is a toe that buckles up and causes pressure and pain. It is commonly referred to as a hammer toe. But did you know there are a few different types of hammer toe conditions?

3 Types of Hammer Toe Conditions

Hammer Toe

A hammer toe is when there the first joint in the toe is contracted and the knuckle is sticking up. You would typically have pain on the top of your toe. You may even develop a corn on top of the toe. Removing the corn is helpful to relieve the pain. Padding can also be useful.

Mallet Toe

A mallet toe is when the second joint in the toe is contracted. It causes the tip of the toe to drop down and get pressure. A painful corn may develop on the tip of a mallet toe. Supporting the toe with a pad can take the pressure off the tip of the toe and ease the pain.

Claw Toe

A claw toe is a hammer toe and mallet toe put together. It is when both joints of the toe are contracted. Often the entire toe is painful. You can have a corn on top of the toe. You can have a corn on the end of the toe. This is a very painful condition. Sometimes padding helps. Sometimes removing the corns help. But often it needs to be treated with surgery.


I had the pleasure of treating a gentleman in his 60’s who had such a bad claw toe that the toe bent under his foot. It was the worst one I had ever seen. And, boy, was it painful for him. Just think about if your toe was dislocated beneath your foot. Every step you take would be on top of that toe. Ouch!


To add insult to injury, he also had a bunion. The bunion caused the great toe to push against the claw toe and pushed it even farther down. So, the bunion was making the claw toe even worse.


Now, I had known this patient for years. I had treated the corns that came up on the toe to give him temporary relief. For a long time, that was enough. It reached a point where working on the corns wasn’t alleviating his pain anymore. He knew it was time to correct the toe with foot surgery.


Unfortunately, straightening the claw toe wasn’t going to be enough. If we only did that, the bunion would keep giving us trouble. It would cause the great toe would keep pushing down on the 2nd toe and cause the problem to come back with time. It was clear that in besides straightening the toe, we would need to correct the bunion as well.


Planning for this surgery was pretty straightforward. The actual surgery was a challenge. The claw toe was so contracted that I had to release tight ligaments on the bottom of the toe to allow it to straighten. But I’m happy to report that the surgery was remarkably successful.


Most importantly, the pain relief he experienced was immediate. Even though he had soreness after the surgery, his toe was in much less pain than it had been before surgery. He was able to bear weight on his foot immediately after the surgery. He is now back in his regular shoes and more active than he was before the surgery.


You may have a toe that’s been bothering your for a while. You may have even come to the office for me to remove a painful corn or callus. If that’s been sufficient, then fantastic. But I want you to know that there is a good solution if you continue to have toe pain. No one wants to have surgery, but it is a good option with a predictable result if you need to.


If you are having pain in your toe, having bunion pain, or any other foot pain, don’t hesitate to contact me at the office. We’ll get you in for an immediate appointment. We’ll discuss the options, both non-surgical and surgical. We will work together to determine the right course
Dr. Andrew Schneider
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A podiatrist and foot surgeon in Houston, TX.