Is Your Big Toe In Pain?

Doctor Arti Amin

Pain in your big toe can be felt with every step. The big toe is continually bending up and down as we walk, making it prone to wear and tear. If you are suffering with soreness or pain at or around your big toe joint, it is important to see a podiatrist to ensure that your big toe pain is diagnosed correctly so effective treatment can be provided. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a world of difference in alleviating the symptoms through simple, conservative treatment.

There are many possible causes for toe pain, including: an ingrown toenail, a fracture, a bunion, gout, sesamoiditis, or a form of degenerative arthritis known as hallux rigidus.

Ingrown Toenail

Ingrown toenails occur when the edges or corners of the toenail grow into the skin on the side of the nail. This causes pain, swelling, and tenderness, especially when pressure is put on the toe. Often an ingrown toenail is the result of improper nail trimming, but it can also be caused by wearing shoes that are too small.[i] Often home treatments like soaking your foot in warm, soapy water will help, but if you’ve developed an infection, your doctor might prescribe an antibiotic.


A sprained toe refers to a ligament injury whereas a broken toe affects the actual bone. Both are common causes of toe injuries. Both injuries are caused by trauma or hyperextension to the toe and can take several weeks to heal. While resting, icing, compressing and elevating are helpful, it’s important to also visit a podiatrist who can properly diagnose and differentiate between sprain and brake to then recommend a safe, appropriate treatment plan.


Bunions generally form gradually over time as the big toe shifts position, with the top of the toe turning inwards, while the bottom of the toe pushes outwards, forming a lump. Bunion pain is typically located around the joint or within the joint and may also travel into the arch of the foot.[ii] Bunions most commonly affect females and are often due to wearing ill-fitting shoes. However, they can be genetic or related to arthritis.[iii]


Gout is a metabolic condition that can affect the big toe joint. Gout occurs when uric acid builds up in a person’s blood, forming crystals which then get deposited into a joint, commonly the big toe joint.[iv] Symptoms of gout include a red, hot, and intensely painful joint. If gout goes untreated and occurs repeatedly for a number of years, joint damage may occur. In addition, gout tophi may form, which are visible or palpable urate deposits seen on the toe.[v]


When the two sesamoid boned, located under the joint at the base of the big toes and enveloped within the tendons under the big toe, get inflamed, the condition is called sesamoiditis. Sesamoiditis can be caused by acute injury or chronic overuse.[vi] Sesamoid problems are usually detectable by a careful history and examination by a podiatrist. 


The most common place to get arthritis in the foot is at the base of the big toe in the metatarsophalangeal joint.[vii] With arthritis, the cartilage that lines this joint gets damaged and osteophytes (small lumps of bone) form. This results in stiffening of the big toe. Arthritis in your toe may be linked with foot injuries or episodes of gout, but it can often develop with no obvious cause. Common symptoms include big toe joint pain and inflammation. A painful grinding sensation, stiffness, and swelling may also occur. Since symptoms for many of these injuries are similar, it’s important to visit a podiatrist who can properly diagnose the pain and suggest an appropriate treatment. 

Toe pain is fairly common, because our feet are constantly exposed to injury by walking, running, or other athletic activity. Once the big toe starts to hurt, it is obvious just how much we use it get around, bend over or even stand.[viii] Many causes of big toe pain can be effectively managed or treated once accurately diagnosed. Visit a podiatrist to get a professional diagnosis if you’re experiencing pain, swelling, inflammation, or discomfort in your big toe. Many treatments are simple and non-invasive. However, if left untreated, more drastic measures may be necessary, so don’t wait to make an appointment with your podiatrist. Happy, healthy toes are critical to your comfortable mobility.

Get to the root cause of why you have pain in your big toe with Corona Foot and Ankle Group. Make an appointment HERE.




[iv] Roddy E, Menz HB. Foot osteoarthritis: latest evidence and developments. Ther Adv Musculoskelet Dis. 2018;10(4):91-103. doi:10.1177/1759720X17753337