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Hallux Rigidus (Stiff Big Toe)

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An unmovable big toe, known as Hallux Rigidus, is the most common form of arthritis in the foot.


Hallux Rigidus occurs as a result of wear-and-tear injuries, which wear down the articular cartilage, causing raw bone ends to rub together. A bone spur, or overgrowth, may develop on the top of the bone. This overgrowth can prevent the toe from bending as much as it needs to when you walk. The resulting stiff big toe can make walking painful and difficult.

Symptoms include:

  • A bump, like a bunion or callus, that develops on the top of the foot.
  • Pain in the joint when active, especially as you push-off on the toes when you walk.
  • Stiffness in the big toe and an inability to bend it up or down.
  • Swelling around the joint.

Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications are often prescribed to reduce swelling and ease the pain. Note: Please consult your physician before taking any medications. Applying ice packs or soaking the foot in contrast baths (alternating cold and hot water) may also help reduce inflammation and control symptoms for a short period of time.


A stiff-soled shoe with a rocker or roller bottom design and possibly a steel shank or metal brace in the sole can help alleviate the symptoms. These types of shoes add greater support when walking and reduce the amount of bend in the big toe.


When damage is more severe, a surgical procedure may be performed to remove the bone spurs, as well as a portion of the foot bone, and allow the toe more room to bend.


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West Lawn Podiatry
Center for Foot & Ankle Care

25 Stevens Avenue

West Lawn, PA 19609

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