Description: Hallux rigidus is arthritis of the main joint of the big toe in the ball of the foot. It is a wearing out of the joint surfaces. It is called “hallux rigidus” because its main feature is stiffness (“rigidus”) of the big toe (“hallux”).
Hallux rigidus is a progressive condition, the toe’s motion decreases as time goes on. In its earlier stage, motion of the big toe is only somewhat limited, the condition is called hallux limitus. But as the problem advances, the toe’s range of motion gradually decreases until it potentially reaches the end stage of “rigidus” where the big toe becomes stiff, or what is sometimes called a “frozen joint.” Other problems are also likely to occur as the disorder progresses.
Because of the painful big toe some people tend to walk on the side of the foot. This may produce pain in the ball of the foot or down its outside border.
Sometimes the joint wears down more on the outer side, towards the lesser toes, than on the inner side. This may make the toe tilt towards the second toe, and the toes may rub together.
In some people, hallux rigidus runs in the family and is a result of inheriting a foot type that is prone to developing this condition. In other cases, it is associated with overuse especially among people engaged in activities or jobs that increase the stress on the big toe, such as workers who often have to stoop or squat. Hallux rigidus can also result from an injury – even from stubbing your toe. Or it may be caused by certain inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.
Footwear: Because the joint is usually most painful when the toe is bent upwards during walking, it sometimes helps to stiffen the sole of your shoe so that it does not bend while walking. A stiff soled shoe with a rocker sole will lessen the bend in the big toe. A shoe with a wide toe box will also help relieve pain. Avoid high heels.
How can orthotics help? Orthotics will not reverse what damage may have occurred, but can slow or halt the on-going damage to the joint. Increasing the pressure in the arch will reduce the amount of weight the affected joint will have to bear.