Big Toe Joint Pain 🦶 Causes & Treatments For Sore Big Toe

Big Toe Pain

Are you suffering from big toe joint pain? You’re not alone. Joint pain in the big toe is a common ailment that affects many individuals, manifesting as discomfort or pain within the joint itself. This condition can be due to various factors, including overuse, injury, or underlying health issues such as arthritis or gout. Those experiencing big toe joint pain may notice symptoms ranging from a mild ache to severe discomfort, particularly when moving the toe or applying pressure while walking. 

Why Does My Big Toe Joint Hurt?

What causes pain on big toe? Sore big toe joint can be caused by conditions such as gout, bunions, arthritis, sprains, and hallux limitus. Gout involves uric acid buildup, bunions are bony bumps that form on the joint, arthritis causes joint inflammation, sprains are injuries to ligaments, and hallux limitus restricts movement due to stiffness.


Gout is caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joint, leading to intense pain, swelling, and redness, particularly in the big toe.


Arthritis in the big toe results from the inflammation of the joint, causing pain, stiffness, and swelling. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are common types.


Bunions are bony protrusions at the base of the big toe caused by misalignment of the foot’s bones. This leads to pain and difficulty in walking.


Sprains occur when ligaments around the big toe are stretched or torn due to excessive force, causing pain, swelling, and movement difficulties.

Hallux Limitus

Hallux limitus is characterised by restricted big toe movement due to arthritis or mechanical dysfunction, leading to stiffness and pain during motion.

Hallux Rigidus: Stiffness in the Big Toe Joint

Hallux rigidus is a type of arthritis that affects the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint, the one at the base of your big toe. This joint plays a crucial role in pushing off the ground while walking and running. Hallux rigidus, literally meaning “stiff big toe” in Latin, causes just that: stiffness and pain in the big toe joint, making movement difficult.

Hallux Rigidus Symptoms

  • Pain and tenderness around the big toe joint, especially when pushing off the ground.
  • Stiffness in the big toe, limiting its ability to bend upwards.
  • Swelling around the joint.
  • Difficulty walking, especially uphill or on uneven surfaces.
  • In some cases, a bony bump might develop on top of the joint.


Unfortunately, there’s no cure for hallux rigidus, as the cartilage damage is progressive. However, there are ways to manage the symptoms and improve your quality of life. Recovery time depends on the severity of the condition and the chosen treatment approach.

Hallux Rigidus Treatment and Relief

  • Non-surgical options: These are often the first line of defence. They include pain relievers, orthotics to improve foot mechanics, shoe modifications with wider toe boxes, physical therapy to maintain flexibility, and cortisone injections to reduce inflammation.
  • Surgical options: In severe cases where non-surgical options fail to provide adequate relief, hallux rigidus surgery might be considered. Different surgical procedures aim to remove bone spurs, realign the joint, or even replace the joint altogether.

If you’re experiencing big toe pain and stiffness, you can consult our podiatrists in Kew. They can diagnose the underlying cause, recommend the most appropriate treatment plan, and help you get back to a pain-free and active lifestyle.

When Do I See My Doctor About Pain in My Big Toe?

Big toe pain can range from a minor annoyance to a significant hurdle in your daily activities. Here’s a guide to help you navigate when to seek professional help and how to manage pain at home:

See a Doctor If:

  • The pain is severe and sudden: This could indicate a fracture, gout attack, or severe sprain.
  • The pain is persistent: If pain lingers for more than a week or two, especially if it worsens, a doctor can diagnose the underlying cause and recommend treatment.
  • There’s swelling, redness, or warmth: These can be signs of infection or inflammation.
  • You have difficulty walking or putting weight on the toe: This could indicate a more serious condition.
  • You have diabetes or other health conditions: Foot problems can be more serious for people with certain medical conditions.

Home Remedies for Big Toe Pain:

  • Rest: Give your toe a break from strenuous activities that aggravate the pain.
  • Ice: Apply ice packs wrapped in a towel for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day, to reduce inflammation.
  • Elevation: Prop your foot up above your heart level to minimise swelling.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers: Medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help manage pain and inflammation.
  • Comfortable shoes: Choose well-fitting shoes with a wide toe box to avoid further irritation.

How Do I Avoid Big Toe Joint Pain?

This table below shows the different strategies you can implement at home to manage big toe pain and prevent future issues. Remember, these are general recommendations, and consulting a podiatrist is important if the pain is severe, persists for a long time, or comes with other concerning symptoms.

Supportive ShoesWear shoes that offer good arch support and a comfortable, wide fit for your toes. Avoid shoes with high heels or narrow toe boxes.Reduces stress on the big toe joint, improves stability, and promotes proper alignment.
Maintain a Healthy WeightLosing excess weight alleviates pressure on your feet, including the big toe joint.Lessens pain and discomfort, minimises the risk of further complications.
Stretching and Strengthening ExercisesRegularly perform gentle stretches and strengthening exercises for your foot muscles.Enhances flexibility and strength, improves range of motion, and helps prevent injuries.
Practice Good Exercise FormWhen running, jumping, or participating in sports that impact your feet, ensure proper technique to avoid stressing the big toe joint.Minimises risk of injuries and pain during physical activities.

By incorporating these self-care practices into your routine, you can manage big toe pain and promote long-term foot health.

Here at Align Health Collective, we can help! Contact us for a consultation and get your big toe back on track.

FAQs about Big Toe Joint Pain

How do you loosen a big toe joint?

While you can’t directly loosen the joint itself, gentle stretches can improve flexibility and range of motion. Sit with your affected foot elevated. Gently pull your big toe down towards your sole and hold for 10–20 seconds. Repeat several times. While seated, place your affected foot on your opposite knee. Hold the heel and pull your toes back towards your shin until you feel a stretch in the bottom of your foot. Hold for 15–30 seconds.

What is a tendonitis in the big toe joint?

Tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon, the tissue connecting muscle to bone. In your big toe joint, it often occurs in the tendon that bends your big toe upwards (extensor hallucis longus). Symptoms include pain, swelling, and tenderness around the top of your foot near the base of the big toe. Activities like running or jumping can worsen it. Treatment typically involves rest, ice, pain relievers, and physical therapy to strengthen the surrounding muscles.

How do you test for arthritis in your toes?

Diagnosing toe arthritis usually involves a doctor’s examination and potentially X-rays.  Common signs include pain, stiffness, swelling, and difficulty bending the toe.  X-rays can reveal joint narrowing, bone spurs, or other changes consistent with arthritis.  In some cases, further testing like blood tests may be needed to rule out other conditions. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for managing pain and maintaining toe function.  If you suspect toe arthritis, consult a doctor for proper evaluation.

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