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Family Foot & Ankle

Hammer, mallet, and claw toe: What causes toes to curl?

Feet with HammertoesThe root cause of curling toes that won’t unfurl—whether they be hammertoes, mallet toes, or claw toes—is a muscle imbalance in your digits. When the muscle responsible for straightening your toes becomes too weak to work against its partner, the digit becomes “stuck,” first flexibly, but eventually rigidly.

But what causes the muscle imbalance? It could be a number of things. Stuffing your toes into shoes that are too small is one possibility, as it forces muscles to stay contracted for long periods of time. But in other cases, especially when claw toes are concerned, inflammatory diseases, nerve damage, or circulatory problems may be to blame. Conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, stroke, and alcoholism all increase your risk.

Don’t wait until it’s too late—early detection and treatment of deformed digits can help you prevent painful consequences like corns or blisters, without needing surgery. Visit Family Foot and Ankle Center at one of our six Greater Cincinnati locales—you can request an appointment online, or call us at (513) 728-4800 in Ohio, (859) 282-1572 in Kentucky.

Dr. Cynthia Miller
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Dr. Cynthia Miller is a board certified podiatrist who has been established in the Cincinnati area since 2004.