Hallux rigidus is a degenerative arthritis affecting the joint of the big toe that eventually causes the toe to become rigid, or unmovable. Over time, the toe’s motion decreases due to wear-and-tear that deteriorates the articular cartilage, making it difficult to walk, run, or climb stairs, all of which involve pushing off of the big toe. In time, standing or putting weight on the affected area can become painful. Hallux rigidus starts with hallux limitus, which involves stiffness and a limited range of motion of the big toe joint.
As a result of hallux rigidus, bunions, calluses, and bone spurs can develop on top of the bone. There is also pain and swelling around the affected joint. Treatment for hallux rigidus involves the use of ice, rest, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications (ask your doctor first), and cortisone injections at the site. Stiff-soled or rocker-bottom footwear and orthotic inserts may alleviate pressure to the area, and shoes with a larger toe box area may also help. Surgery can become necessary in advanced or painful cases.