What is a mallet toe? A mallet toe is a contracture of the joint at the tip of your toe. The toe bends in a downward position. It's caused by an abnormal balance between the tendons that make your toe extend, and the tendons that make your toe flex. This can be common with many different types of foot structures.
A mallet toe becomes painful secondary to shoe irritation. You can develop pain at the tip of the toe, or at the top of the joint itself. Shoe irritation results in friction. Our body's way of dealing with friction is to lay down thickened skin, commonly called a corn. Our body doesn't know when to stop laying down this thickened skin, and as a result the corn can become quite painful. Pain is also associated with the inflammation that's present in the actual joint itself.
The causes of a mallet toe are typically hereditary in nature. You may be born with a foot structure that makes you more prone to developing an imbalance of the tendons. In people who have a long second toe, mallet toes are extremely common. And the reason being is, over the years they've been fitting their shoes to their big toe and not their second, resulting in repetitive injury over the years. A direct injury can also result in a mallet toe, which causes damage to one of the tendons. Certain neuromuscular diseases such as diabetes can also make you more prone to developing mallet toes.