Hallux Rigidus

Hallux rigidus is a form of degenerative arthritis. It occurs in the joint located at the base of the big toe. Hallux rigidus is characterized by pain and stiffness in the big toe. Over time, the big toe becomes more stiff.

When a person has hallux rigidus, the cartilage in the joint located at the base of the big toe is wearing thin.

Hallux Rigidus is also called “Stiff Big Toe”.


There are several causes of hallux rigidus. Some common causes are:

  • structural abnormalities of the foot
  • overuse—especially among people engaged in activities or jobs that increase the stress on the big toe
  • injury, such as stubbing your toe
  • inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout

Hallux rigidus exercises

Before you start exercising your toe, make sure to talk with your doctor. Gentle exercises may relieve the stiffness and pain. If the big toe isn’t completely stiff and you are able to move it, you may be able to improve its flexibility with some simple stretches and exercises. A simple stretch and exercise is to grasp your big toe and gently pull it back until the point of resistance. Hold the position for 20 seconds. Repeat several times a day.

Another type of exercise is to align your big toe in its proper position and use your hands to bend the toe up and down. Hold each bend of your toe for 30 seconds.


Some common symptoms are:

  • pain and stiffness in the big toe
  • pain and stiffness aggravated by cold, damp weather
  • swelling and inflammation around the joint located at the base of the big toe

How is Hallux Rigidus Diagnosed?

If you believe you have hallux rigidus, talk to your doctor. Your doctor will examine your foot and take X-rays.


Your doctor may prescribe pain medication and anti-inflammatory drugs, recommend a different type of shoe, suggest orthotic devices, or injections of corticosteriods. Injections of corticosteroids in small amounts are can help reduce the inflammation and pain. Ultrasound therapy and other types of physical therapy may also be prescribed. In severe cases, surgery may be needed.


A common complication of hallux rigidus is a bone spur. A bone spur is a bony projection that form along joints. They are often seen in conditions such as arthritis. Bone spurs are also called osteophytes.