What are they?
In describing the various positional afflictions of the toes, it seems that the term "deformities" is a bit too grotesque sounding. However, for lack of more accurate descriptive terms, the word does fit the case so to speak. The three most common positional abnormalities affecting the digits are hammertoes, contracted toes, and mallet toes. In most cases, these problems are acquired or gained through time and may or may not be progressive. Furthermore, digital deformities may or may not become problematic and thus, the need for treatment may not always be necessary.
Hammertoe deformities in actuality are partial dislocations of the digit where there becomes a prominent knuckle or protrusion of bone on top of the toe. Often times a hardened corn will form over this knuckle in response to shoe pressure. A true hammertoe deformity cannot be straightened out by manual manipulation and is thus considered a "fixed" deformity. In contrast, a contracted digit is a toe that is drawn up or downward because of an unequal pull of a tendon involved. This condition is considered flexible since, with manipulation, it can be reduced and straightened into the more correct position. Contracted toes, in themselves, rarely cause problems but may in turn be the cause of other problematic conditions either on top or on the bottom of the foot. Mallet toes, like hammertoes, are partial dislocations of bone but involve the end or last joint of the toe instead of the first one. In this condition, the patient is often times walking on the end of the involved toe and forms a corn at the end and undersurface of the digit. True mallet toes are frequently problematic due to the pressure and lesion development on the end of the toe.
How do you treat them?
The most effective treatment in reducing and correcting these positional ailments is obviously surgery. Today, various techniques and procedures are available which make the surgery relatively simple, painless, and nondibilitating. Usually, regular shoes can be worn immediately and there is frequently no need to miss work or to interrupt one's daily living routine. Deformities of the toes are frequent occurrences but can usually be readily resolved in those cases where they have become problematic.