Is Pain On Your Big Toe Getting You Down?

Are you worried and not sure what’s causing pain on your big toe?

The big toe may be small, but its role in our lives to keep us active is enormous. Just imagine how hard it would be to walk, run, squat, bend, rise up on the balls of the feet, or simply keep our balance without the aid of the big toes.  For that reason, pain in the big toe can greatly interfere with daily living activities and cause much frustration and worry.

The most common causes of toe pain include ingrown toenails, bunions, cuts or scrapes, other injuries, blisters, and corns and calluses. Arthritis (including rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and other types of arthritis) and infections are additional causes of toe pain.  Below we’ve outlined the 4 most common causes of big toe pain that are seen in our clinic.

Top 4 causes of pain in the big toe

  1. Gout – this is a condition that is caused by a build up of uric acid. If you have gout in your big toe, you’ll probably feel swelling and intense pain and heat in the joint of the big toe. The onset of this pain usually occurs quite suddenly whereby some people go to bed without pain and wake up with symptoms in the morning.  An accurate diagnosis of gout can be done by a simple blood test or xray and once confirmed your doctor can prescribe medication to treat the gout.  The medication works by bringing down the inflammation and also prevent future gout attacks by lowering uric acid levels.
  2. Arthritis – Arthritis in your big toe joint limits its movement.  This can lead to a condition called hallux rigidus which is the loss of flexibility in the big toe due to arthritis in the MTP joint. In an earlier stage of the condition, called hallux limitus, movement is only somewhat affected and conservative measures can often relieve pain and improve function.  It’s not entirely clear why hallux rigidus develops in some people and not in others. Hereditary or congenital defects in the foot or faulty foot mechanics can place chronic stress on the big toe joint, triggering arthritis. Certain athletic injuries have also been implicated.  Conservative treatment usually involves offloading the joint via change in footwear (avoid flexible and narrow shoes) and customised orthotic inserts to help limit motion of the big toe joint.
  3. Ingrown toenail – An ingrown toenail is a common cause of pain or discomfort in the big toe. This often occurs if a person cuts their toenail too short or curves it in too far.Wearing tight shoes may aggravate or even cause an ingrown toenail.  We see many people with ingrown toenails and if treated early it is often a fast and simple procedure in the clinic.  Recurring or persistent ingrown toenails can be surgically removed to prevent the troublesome nail portion from growing back permanently.
  4. Turf toe – Turf toe is an injury that happens due to repetitive bending of the big toe upwards and thereby jamming it. This can be repetitive jumping or running that could cause the big toe to bend awkwardly. The condition is more common in athletes who play on artificial turf (hence the name).  The pain and swelling will often gradually build up over time and a person may notice swelling and loss of mobility in the joint as well. Typically, treatment involves rest, icing, compression, and elevation (RICE) and stopping the activity that is aggravating the toe. This is important because it helps prevent the injury from getting worse.  We often assess a person’s footwear and may suggest changing to footwear that is stiffer and less flexible to help reduce the pain.


Pain in the big toe can be debilitating as it plays such an important role in allowing us to move and complete every day tasks.  With early treatment and intervention to find the cause and not just treat the symptoms will be the best way forward.  

Here at The Footcare Clinic we’ve helped many people get back to doing what they love without toe pain. If you or someone you know are suffering with big toe pain then we’d love to help.  You can easily book online or call our clinic on (03) 9711 7562 and our team will be able to help you answer any questions you have.

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