Common Big Toe Joint Conditions

The most common disorders of the big toe joint are bunions, arthritis and sesamoiditis, the last an overuse injury. The big toe joint or the MTP (metatarsophalangeal) joint is important because it bends with each step, and if it is compromised in any way, walking can become painful and difficult.

Arthritis in the Big Toe

Arthritis in the MTP joint can result in hallux rigidus, a stiff big toe, which can be painful and make walking difficult. Pushing off on the toes is especially problematic, as a stiff toe does not bend (up or down) and causes pain. The pain may force the person to walk on the outside of his or her foot, and other symptoms can include swelling around the joint and a bony bump on top of the foot.

Non-operative treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications, icing and wearing shoes with a rocker bottom, may ease the pain but will not stop the condition from progressing. A variety of surgical approaches are available, the selection depending on the degree of arthritis within the joint. The goals of surgical treatment are pain relief and, whenever possible, retention of joint motion.

Turf Toe

Turf toe is a mirroring of diagnoses and can mean a lot of different things. The most common injuries that involve the diagnosis of turf toe all revolve around injuries to the big toe joint of the foot. This includes complications in the bones at the bottom of the big toe joint, called the sesamoid bones, and its associated ligaments. It can also involve injury to the capsule or lining of the joint and the cartilage of the big toe joint. The reason why it’s so painful is that the body puts so much weight and propulsion on the area for sports, daily living activities, and casual walking. The respective pressure (with the damaged big toe joint) causes a tremendous amount of discomfort. 

How to Identify Turf Toe

In order to address turf toe, the first thing is identifying what the underlying cause is. Oftentimes, we can treat it with inserts or orthotics that help create a rigid-soled shoe that allows for appropriate propulsion or walking with less stress across the joint. The condition can also be treated surgically depending on how serious the joint injury is and avoid the onset of arthritis entirely. Unfortunately, if medical assistance isn’t sought out immediately, additional surgical intervention may be needed to correct the presence of arthritis. These procedures include cheilectomies, which clean out the joint of arthritic substances, fusions, and joint replacement surgeries. These options either correct the injury altogether or preserve motion and allow for function while getting rid of the pain associated with turf toe. 


Bunions, which can usually be prevented by wearing shoes that fit properly, is a deformity where the base of the MTP joint gets larger and sticks out, with the skin becoming tender. Caused by wearing tight, narrow shoes and high heels, bunions may become too painful to wear any type of shoe and can lead to bursitis, chronic pain and arthritis as well as a grotesquely deformed foot with misaligned and overlapping toes.

Moderate cases may be helped by wearing roomy shoes, however, surgery may be indicated if a bunion has progressed to the point where walking is difficult or pain is experienced despite accommodative shoes.


An overuse injury condition commonly seen in dancers and runners is called sesamoiditis. Two very small bones (sesamoids) near the big toe, which interact with the tendons, help with weight bearing and elevating the bones of the big toe, can be fractured, causing pain, swelling and possibly difficulty in moving the big toe.

A form of tendonitis, sesamoiditis usually responds to non-surgical treatment including rest, icing and shoewear modification, as well as a period of immobilization if inflammation is present. If conservative measures fail, surgery may be recommended to remove the sesamoid bone.

Big Toe Joint Pain Relief in Chicagoland

The big toe is a major factor in helping the body balance itself with every step we take. Needless to say, it’d be very difficult to walk in a simple straight line without it. In the event you’re experiencing big toe joint pain, you’ll need to consult a professional foot specialist to accurately diagnose your condition and apply the most efficient treatment method. Dr. Vora is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with in-depth knowledge of the anatomical structures of the ankles, feet and toes. His expertise has been assisting patients with lower extremity relief for many years and utilizes the most cutting edge tactics available. To schedule a visit to relieve your toe pain, please contact Dr. Vora and his accommodating staff so you can get the treatment you deserve.