Medical Issue

Arthritic Big Toe (Hallux rigidus)

Arthritic Big Toe (Hallux rigidus)

An arthritic big toe can make walking painful and more difficult. The big toe is the most likely site for an occurrence of arthritis for the foot. Arthritis can lead to a rigid big toe. The medical term is hallux rigidus, or stiffening of the big toe. Many more people with arthritis experience a lesser form of the issue known as hallux limitus. Left untreated, sufferers can develop hallux rigidus.


Symptoms include inflammation in the big toe especially when walking, stiffness or swelling around the joint, and an inability to bend the toe up or down. Other symptoms may include a bump on the top of the foot which can look like a bunion.

Risk Factors

A hereditary deformity in foot anatomy can increase stress on the joint leading to this condition. Rigid big toe (Hallux rigidus) usually develops in middle-aged adults.


A rigid big toe may result from an injury to the toe that damages the articular cartilage or from an abnormality in foot anatomy that increases stress on the joint. Bones in the toe are covered by a smooth articular cartilage. When wear-and-tear or injury damage the articular cartilage it can remove the cartilage over time and the raw bone ends can rub together. A bone spur or overgrowth may develop on the top of the big toe joint.


Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen may help reduce the swelling and ease the pain for patients. Applying ice packs or taking contrast baths (alternatively dipping the foot into buckets of hot and cold water for five minutes) may help reduce inflammation and control symptoms for a short period-of-time. Wearing a shoe with a large toe box will reduce the pressure on the toe, as will giving up wearing high heels. A stiff-soled shoe with a rocker or roller bottom design and possibly even a steel shank or metal brace in the sole can also alleviate pressure on the toe, by providing additional support for the foot when walking and reducing the amount of bend in the big toe, but treatments can't stop the condition from progressing.

For severe cases, surgical options include removing bone spurs, fusing toe bones, or replacing the affected toe joint.

The Concierge Podiatry Advantage

At Concierge Podiatry we specialize in treating all podiatric issues including hallux limitus and rigidus. Our Perfect Posture Orthotics significantly reduce pain and increase range of motion. Laser therapy can alleviate symptoms and eliminate pain. We also offer Mesenchymal Stem Cell therapy that can regenerate articular cartilage. If surgery is indicated, we feature an option that uses a new type of implant, Cartiva, to replace the cartilage.

  • Learn more about Cartiva.
  • Contact Concierge Podiatry for an appointment
  • Learn more about treatment options often used to treat this issue