Westlake Kensington Square, 28687 Center Ridge Road
(440) 871-3400

Lakewood 3386 Warren Road
(216) 671-7440

Lorain 1740 Cooper Foster Park Rd. West Suite B
440-282-1221

Wellington 508 Dickson St.
1-888-961-8038

Hallux Rigidus

Each day, with every step you take, your big toe bears a tremendous amount of stress--a force equal to about twice your body weight. Most of us don't realize how much we use our big toe. We tend to take it for granted, unless a problem develops.

One problem that afflicts the big toe is called hallux rigidus, a condition in which movement of the toe is restricted to varying degrees. This disorder can be very troubling and even disabling, since we use the all-important big toe whenever we walk, stoop down, climb up, or even stand. If you have pain and/or stiffness in your big toe, you may have this condition.

What Is Hallux Rigidus?

Hallux rigidus is a disorder of the joint located at the base of the big toe. It causes pain and stiffness in the big toe, and with time it gets increasingly harder to bend the toe. "Hallux" refers to the big toe, while "rigidus" indicates that the toe is rigid and cannot move. Hallux rigidus is actually a form of degenerative arthritis (a wearing out of the cartilage within the joint that occurs in the foot and other parts of the body).

Because hallux rigidus is a progressive condition, the toe's motion decreases as time goes on. In its earlier stage, motion of the big toe is only somewhat limited--at that point, the condition is called "hallux limitus." But as the problem advances, the toe's range of motion gradually decreases until it potentially reaches the end stage of "rigidus," in which the big toe becomes stiff, or what is sometimes called a "frozen joint." Other problems are also likely to occur as the disorder progresses.

Symptoms

Early signs and symptoms include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the big toe during use (walking, standing, bending, etc.)
  • Pain and stiffness aggravated by cold, damp weather
  • Difficulty with certain activities (running, squatting)
  • Swelling and inflammation around the joint

As the disorder gets more serious, additional symptoms may develop, including:

  • Pain, even during rest
  • Difficulty wearing shoes because bone spurs (overgrowths) develop. Wearing high-heeled shoes can be particularly difficult.
  • Dull pain in the hip, knee, or lower back due to changes in the way you walk
  • Limping, in severe cases

What Causes Hallux Rigidus?

Common causes of hallux rigidus are faulty function (biomechanics) and structural abnormalities of the foot that can lead to osteoarthritis in the big toe joint. This type of arthritis--the kind that results from "wear and tear"--often develops in people who have defects that change the way their foot and big toe functions. For example, those with fallen arches or excessive pronation (rolling in) of the ankles are susceptible to developing hallux rigidus.

In some people, hallux rigidus runs in the family and is a result of inheriting a foot type that is prone to developing this condition. In other cases it is associated with overuse, especially among people engaged in activities or jobs that increase the stress on the big toe, such as workers who often have to stoop or squat. Hallux rigidus can also result from an injury, even from stubbing your toe. Or it may be caused by certain inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout. Corrigan Podiatry can determine the cause of your hallux rigidus and recommend the best treatment.

Diagnosis of Hallux Rigidus

The sooner this condition is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. Therefore, the best time to visit Corrigan Podiatry is when the big toe first feels stiff or hurts during walking, standing, bending over, or squatting. If you wait until bone spurs develop, the condition is likely to be more difficult to manage.

In diagnosing hallux rigidus, the surgeon at Corrigan Podiatry will examine the foot and manipulate the toe to determine its range of motion. X-rays are usually required to determine how much arthritis is present as well as to evaluate any bone spurs or other abnormalities that may have formed.

The preceding is for informational purposes only. The material is derived from the current medical knowledge on the topics listed. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This site does not provide medical advice.  A special "thank you" is extended to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, as much of the information is derived from their literature and websites.

Office Hours for Corrigan Podiatry

Westlake

9:00 - 5:00

Warren Rd.

Closed

Westlake

9:00 – 5:00

Warren Rd.

9:00 - 12:00

Westlake

9:00 - 5:00

Warren Rd.

Closed

Westlake

9:00 – 4:00

Warren Rd.

9:00 - 12:00

Westlake

9:00 – 4:00

Warren Rd.

Closed

Two a month Westlake / Lakewood

With full

Surgery staff

9:00 - 12:00

Call for Details

Wellington

One Saturday / Month

We will be happy to visit qualified homebound patients.

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