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Hallux Rigidus – Stiff Big Toe


This is a type of arthritis that affects the base of the big toe. It forms in the metatarsophalangeal joint(we call it the “MTP” joint). With hallux rigidus, the protective cartilage on the ends of these bones wears away. Bone rubs against bone. Bony growths called “bone spurs” may form. Your toe stiffens, and this can make walking uncomfortable.


Hallux Rigidus – Stiff Big Toe

Causes & Triggers

We don’t fully understand what causes this arthritis. It may be caused by overuse. It may be linked to afoot injury or other problem. It may be linked to a certain type of foot anatomy that puts stress on the MTP joint.

  • Aging
  • Anatomical abnormalities that increase joint stress
  • Injury
  • Osteoarthritis (normal “wear-and-tear”)

Signs & Symptoms

Hallux rigidus tends to develop between the ages of30 and 60. It causes pain and stiffness. You may not be able to bend the toe up or down. The joint may swell. Your toe may hurt more with activity. A callus may form on the top of your foot just behind the toe.

  • Bump on top of foot
  • Inability to bend big toe
  • Significant pain, especially when walking or pushing off on toes
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling

Tips & Treatment

Treatment may include medications and shoes that support your toe. You may need to limit activities that make your toe hurt. If these don’t help, you may benefit from surgery. Your healthcare provider will create a plan that’s right for you.

  • The big toe joint is the most common site for arthritis in the foot.
  • This condition typically occurs in adults ages 30-60.
  • Make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist at the first sign of symptoms since Hallux Rigidus responds better to early treatment.
  • X-rays can help determine the presence of bone spurs and the degree of degeneration.

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