Hallux Limitus: Definition, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Hallux Limitus: Definition, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Hallux limitus is defined as the sore and painful condition affecting the joint connecting your big toe to your feet, known as the hallux. Hallux limitus can further develop into hallux rigidus.

Symptoms of hallux limitus include:

  • Pain at the tip of your joint for the big toe
  • Numbing or tingling feeling in your feet
  • Calluses around the big toe
  • Bone spurs
  • Hallux valgus (also known as bunions)
  • Having trouble flexing your toes

Many things increase your risk of developing hallux limitus. To name a few:

  • Overusing and injuring your toes can strain the joints and cause hallux limitus.
  • Having an abnormal walking gait that is passed down from your parents or having a family history of hallux limitus increases the risk of developing the condition.
  • Wearing footwear that further adds stress to your joints.
  • Arthritis in some cases affects the way you move, and can negatively impact your big toe joint.

Since hallux limitus is not too severe of an issue, there are ways you can treat and manage the symptoms at home.

  • Wearing properly fitted shoes that are comfortable (see an orthotic clinic for customized options)
  • Wearing a rigid sole to prevent strain on your big toe while bending
  • Anti-inflammatory medication such as Advil
  • Applying ice to the affected area frequently for about ten minutes

Hallux Rigidus – A Comprehensive Guide

Hallux rigidus is a more complex condition than hallux limitus. In hallux rigidus, all the aspects of pain and soreness apply along with difficulty to bend the toe if treatment is not sought. This condition is associated with arthritis because hallux rigidus is a form of degenerative arthritis, which is a disorder characterized by the damage of joints and cartilage of the bone.

Since hallux rigidus is associated with degenerative arthritis, causes of this condition are linked with faulty biomechanics and abnormal bone growth, which can result in arthritis in the hallux joint. Arthritis associated with hallux rigidus is usually caused by tearing of the joints from overuse, which in turn changes the function or the way the big toe moves.

Living With Hallux Limitus/Rigidus in Your 20s and 30s

Being any age can make you prone to hallux limitus, and without the proper dedication to treat it, the condition can further advance into hallux rigidus. Despite being young, you have to take pain seriously, as it can grow into something worse. The moment you feel pain, see a doctor and try to find treatment as soon as possible. Some patients report that after two years of doing nothing and going to see a doctor again on the condition after the pain worsens, their bone structure has changed and so has the function of their big toes. Hallux limitus may seem mild but can get severe to the point where you are limping. This means treatment may require a combination of things, such as physical therapy, medication, injections, and orthotics. It’s always important to understand that while aging may make you more susceptible to foot deformities, it can still happen in your younger years, and treatment should be taken just as seriously.

Hallux rigidus and limitus shoes

For both hallux rigidus and limitus, you can find sandals that provide metatarsal, arch, and heel support. Shoes bought from retail are a one-kind-fits-all. You should consider getting shoes tailored to your foot’s needs to help better treat your foot. Sneakers with enhanced arch support are vital in keeping your feet functioning properly and can possibly avoid faulty biomechanics and abnormal joint growth. For hallux rigidus, firm soles are recommended to prevent further complications and pain.

Orthotic management tactics for hallux limitus

Hallux limitus can be managed with orthotic devices that aim to restrict the movement of the first MTP joint. Devices also distribute weight across the foot equally to avoid strained and pressurized toes. Incorporating orthotics into your daily life with your footwear is easy by getting them customized for your feet. This may include having stiffer and more rigid soles incorporated into your shoes.

What are my options dealing with hallux limitus? 

Aside from orthotic management discussed above, there are quite a few options in dealing with hallux limitus. Some of these are:

  • Over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen (Advil) to help relieve inflammation
  • Injections to relieve the pain
  • Physical therapy and foot exercises to help relieve pain
  • Getting shoes with wide toe boxes and rigid soles to prevent the condition from worsening
  • Icing the area about 2-3 times a day

Hallux Rigidus: Treatment, Symptoms & Repair

As symptoms get worse, you may find yourself:

  • In pain, while resting
  • Having pain in your upper body because of the changed style of walking
  • Unable to wear shoes properly due to bone spurs
  • Limping

Non-surgical treatment would include changes in the shoes to make them more comfortable, orthotic devices, medications, the use of corticosteroids (injections), and physical therapy. Some of these treatments overlap hallux limitus since they are similar, but in severe cases, you may need to seek surgical treatment to help correct any faulty biomechanics or abnormal growth of the bone. For surgery, factors such as age, activity level, and complexity of the situation must be taken into account before resorting to the procedure.

Big toe got you down? It may be hallux rigidus.

If you feel that your big toe is hindering your movements by being stiff and not functioning properly, then you may have hallux rigidus. Pain persists, even during rest, which can be painful throughout the entire day. It can also worsen if not taken seriously. So if you feel that your big toe has you moving differently, or is constantly causing you pain, see a pedorthist or a doctor.

Can hallux rigidus be reversed?

The more correct term to describe what treatment will do is “halt” hallux rigidus. Effects may be reversed if the patient invests in all sorts of treatment to prevent hallux rigidus from escalating. This can mean a combination of physical therapy, injections, orthotics, and in some instances, surgery. Surgery’s effects are permanent and do alter the joint’s position which affects hallux rigidus. Orthotics can prevent the condition from worsening.

Why your big toe might be the cause of your running injuries

While running, the stride of a runner can alter the gait of a person because of the continuous pressure and stress on the toes. It’s possible that you may stub your toe while running, and this can, in turn, contribute to the development of hallux rigidus and limitus. The big toe is also prone to corns, calluses, and hallux valgus (bunions). There are many injuries that can affect the MTP joint, which is why your big toe can cause running injuries.

Whatever your foot/ankle injury or condition, our Burlington Chiropodist, Pedorthist, and Athletic Therapist can get you back on your feet quickly! Serving the Hamilton, Burlington, Waterdown, Oakville, and Milton areas. We help you get back to healthy and happy living. Call us at 289-245-6624 for an appointment.

Scroll to Top