Big Toe Joint Pain

Big Toe Pain Image

Big toe joint pain can be due to abnormalities or injuries to skin, nerves, bone, blood vessels, or soft tissues. Since our feet are constantly exposed to injury by walking, running, or other athletic activity, and moving around, big toe joint pain is a fairly common symptom. 

The most common causes of big toe joint pain include ingrown toenails, blisters, bunions, corns and calluses.

Other causes of toe pain include:

  • Hallux Rigidus (stiffness in your big toe)
  • Sesamoid Injuries of the Foot
  • Gout
  • Hammertoe

Hallux Rigidus

Hallux rigidus (also known as “stiff big toe”) is a form of degenerative arthritis, which causes stiffness in the joint at the base of the toe. In time, it becomes increasingly difficult to bend the big toe. “Hallux” refers to the big toe, while “rigidus” indicates that the toe is rigid and cannot move.

Since we use the big toe whenever we walk, stoop down, climb up, or even stand, this disorder can be very troubling and even disabling. Many patients confuse hallux rigidus with a bunion, which affects the same joint, but they are very different conditions requiring different treatments.

Sesamoid Injuries of the Foot

Sesamoid injuries can involve the bones, tendons, and/or surrounding tissue in the joint. A sesamoid is a bone embedded in a tendon. Sesamoids are found in several joints in the body. In the normal foot, the sesamoids are two pea-shaped bones located in the underside of the forefoot near the great toe, one on the outer side of the foot and the other closer to the middle of the foot (in the ball of the foot, beneath the big toe joint).

Sesamoid injuries are often associated with activities requiring increased pressure on the ball of the foot, such as running, basketball, football, golf, tennis, and ballet. 

People with high arches are at risk of developing sesamoid problems. Frequent wearing of high-heeled shoes can also be a contributing factor.


Gout is a disorder that results from the build-up of uric acid in the tissues or a joint. It most often affects the joint of the big toe.

Gout attacks are caused by deposits of crystallized uric acid in the joint. Ordinarily, uric acid is present in the blood and eliminated in the urine, but in people who have gout, uric acid accumulates and crystallizes in the joints. Uric acid is the result of the breakdown of purines, chemicals that are found naturally in our bodies and in food. Some people develop gout because their kidneys have difficulty eliminating normal amounts of uric acid, while others produce too much uric acid.

Gout occurs most commonly in the big toe because uric acid is sensitive to temperature changes. At cooler temperatures, uric acid turns into crystals. Since the toe is the part of the body farthest from the heart, it’s also the coolest part of the body – and, thus, the most likely target of gout. However, gout can affect any joint in the body.


Hammertoe Photo

Hammertoe is a contracture (bending) of one or both joints of the second, third, fourth, or fifth (little) toes. This abnormal bending can put pressure on the toe when wearing shoes, causing problems to develop.

Hammertoe usually starts as a mild deformity and gets progressively worse over time. In the early stages, the hammertoe is flexible, and the symptoms can often be managed with noninvasive measures or with minimally invasive in-office surgical procedures. But if left untreated, a hammertoe can become more rigid and will not respond to nonsurgical treatment.

Big Toe Joint Pain Assessment at Pacific Point Podiatry

If you have concerns about your big toe joint pain, contact Dr. Tea of Pacific Point Podiatry at (831) 288-3400 to set up an appointment. For your convenience, you may also request an appointment online.

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