Footcare Scotland - The Foot & Ankle Experts
Rheumatoid Arthritis

Hallux Rigidus

Hallux Rigidus causes pain and stiffness in the big toe joint.  It is caused by arthritis and can effect people of all ages.

What causes Hallux Rigidus?

Your big toe joint is put under enormous stress when we walk and run.  Around 2 times your body weight goes through the joint when we walk.  This may make it susceptible to the joint undergoing some changes and becoming stiff and sore.  Injuries such as blunt trauma to the joint may also be a cause of Hallux Rigidus.  Other medical conditions such as gout or a joint infection can also result in Hallux Rigidus.

How does it feel?

Not all people with Hallux Rigidus will get pain.  In fact we see many people with stiffness at the big toe joint but with no pain at all.  In some cases people report mild pain when the joint is extended to the limits of its movement.  Others will report pain whenever they walk and even at rest.  It can reduce your enjoyment of walking or your favourite activities.

When the joint is painful, it can cause you to walk on the outside of the foot.  This can produce pain in the ball of the foot or on the outside border.

You may also develop a bony lump on top of the joint.  This bony lump, or osteophyte, can rub n your shoes and be uncomfortable.

Will it get worse?

Your joint will most likely stay stiff but in the majority of people it won’t get any more painful.  However, in around 25% of cases, the pain will worsen and treatment will be required.  In most cases, the pain will eventually improve as the joint stiffens up.

What can be done?

If the pain is bad and is interfering with your life, then there is plenty that can be done.  Because the toe is painful when it is pulled backwards, wearing a stiff soles shoe may help.  This will help reduce the movement and make walking less painful.  Where you cannot wear a stiff soled shoe, a special stiff insole can be added to your shoe.  This insole is very thin and relatively inexpensive, and works very well in most cases.  Although the plate is very thin, it can cause the bony lump on top of the joint to rub so care needs to be taken to choose the correct footwear.  Another way we can reduce the movement of the toe is by applying tape.  Watch our short video below to see how this is done.  All you will need is some zinc oxide tape.

If the joint is still painful, we may consider injecting the joint with some steroid and local anaesthetic.  This may help reduce the inflammation in the joint.  In some cases the injection only helps for a short period, other times it helps in the longer term.

How about an operation?

If you have tried all the conservative options and your pain is severe, then you may want to consider an operation.  Please read our blog which discusses all the available operative options HERE

When do I need treatment?

If the joint is painful, stopping you from doing your normal activities or stopping you from wearing your favourite shoes get in touch to see what we can do to help.  You can book an appointment HERE