Hallux Limitus (Stiff big toe)

The Hallux is the medical term for the big toe. Stiffness of the big toe is called Hallux Limitus. When there is no motion of the big toe it is called Hallux Rigidus. The big toe joint can appear to have normal motions, but this motion can be limited when weightbearing. As with many conditions of the foot function conditions progress to structural deformities. As the condition progresses, degenerative arthritis develops in the big toe joint.  

The most common cause of hallux limitus as an abnormal alignment of the long bone behind the big toe joint called the first metatarsal bone. With this condition, the first metatarsal bone is elevated relative to the other metatarsal bones in the other toes. The big toe cannot move smoothly and jamming occurs at the joint. Calluses can develop under the big toe. The pain and the calluses are caused by the big toe not bending upward enough as the bottom of the toe is jammed into the ground. People who have diabetes must watch for this because the pressure can cause ulcerations of the skin that can become infected. Bone spurs can develop on the top of the joint due to jamming of the toe. The bump on the top of the big toe joint can become painful due to shoe pressure. Pain within the joint can occur due to the limitation of movement of the joint. With time, the joint stiffens. As the joint continues to degenerate more bone spurring occurs. If the condition is left untreated complete destruction of the joint can occur.

Diagnosis is made with clinical exam and the use of x-rays. Oral medications and cortisone injections are useful in treating the pain but will not stop the degenerative process. Functional orthotics, however, are designed to treat the cause of the condition. These devices fit into the shoes and correct the underlying functional problem with the joint. Orthotics will not reverse what damage may have occurred but can slow or halt any on-going joint damage.

If you suspect you have this condition, please call our office to make an appointment. Our professional podiatrists can assess how your feet are functioning and make the appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Wendy Taggart PMAC & Insurance Specialist