What is hallux rigidus?

Hallux rigidus literally means "stiff big toe," which is the main symptom of the disorder. Hallux rigidus is a form of degenerative arthritis, which can cause pain and stiffness in the metatarsophalangeal joint (the joint where your big toe—the hallux—joins your foot).

Because hallux rigidus is a progressive condition (gets worse over time), the toe's motion decreases as time goes on, making walking or even standing painful. The pain and stiffness may get worse in cold, damp weather, and the joint may become swollen and inflamed. A bump, like a bunion or callus, often develops on the top of the foot and makes wearing shoes difficult.

Hallux rigidus is the second most common disorder of the big toe, after hallux valgus (bunions). Hallux rigidus occurs in adolescents and adults and is most common in people between the ages of 30 and 60.

What causes hallux rigidus?

There is no single cause of hallux rigidus. It may develop because of overuse of the joint, such as in workers who have to stoop and squat or athletes who place a great deal of stress on the joint. It may occur after an injury, such as stubbing the toe or spraining the joint (called "turf toe" in athletes). In some people, hallux rigidus runs in the family and comes from inheriting a foot type or a way of walking that may lead to this condition. Osteoarthritis (wear and tear arthritis) and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout are other possible causes of hallux rigidus.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/08/2016.

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