The symptoms of these conditions are toes that appear curled under to varying degrees. Hammer, claw, and mallet toes are variations of deviant toe malformation that are neither genetic nor trauma-based.
What causes these conditions?
Hammer, claw, and mallet toes are usually caused by an imbalance of the flexor and extensor muscles at the relevant joints especially when one muscle group overpowers the other. This often happens when unhealthy footwear is worn for extended periods.
There are two muscle groups that control joint movements:
- Flexors cause the toes to bend downward
- Extensors cause the toes to rise
These two muscle groups naturally oppose each other but, when they work together, they produce a balanced tension that keeps the joints properly aligned.
They are further subdivided into two muscle types:
- Intrinsic muscles, which are the small muscles in the foot. These muscles are involved in finer movements.
- Extrinsic muscles, which are muscles in the lower leg that are connected to the foot via long tendons. These muscles help stabilize the foot during weight bearing activities.
These conditions occur as a result of intrinsic muscle activity attempting to create a proper functioning arch when the foot’s extrinsic muscles have failed to do so.