In general, the term hammer toe describes a buckling of any of the toe joints. Joints at the end or the middle of the toe, as well as the joint near the ball of the foot, may be affected. Toe joints usually curl because of a muscle imbalance or tight tendons. Hammer toes vary in severity and in the number of joint and toe involved.
Mallet toes and claw toes are similar in appearance to hammer toes, but joints at different locations on the toes are affected. The joint at the end of the toe buckles in a mallet toe, while a claw toe involves abnormal positions of all three joints of the toe.
Note: Wearing tight pantyhose, socks, or shoes may increase your risk of developing hammer toes.