Foot Health

Why does my hallux rigidus hurt?

Cartilage Degeneration

The pain associated with Hallux Rigidus primarily arises from the breakdown of the cartilage in the MTP joint. Cartilage is a smooth tissue that covers the ends of the bones in a joint, facilitating smooth, friction-free movement. As the cartilage deteriorates, the bones may rub against each other, causing discomfort and inflammation. This process can also lead to the formation of bone spurs, further exacerbating the pain.

Inflammation and Swelling

When the bones in the MTP joint rub together, it triggers inflammation – the body’s natural response to injury. This inflammation leads to swelling and warmth in the joint, both of which can cause pain. The pain may be worse after periods of rest or first thing in the morning, improving with movement as the joint “warms up.”

Impact on Mobility and Gait

The loss of mobility due to Hallux Rigidus can alter your gait or the way you walk. This change can lead to additional stress on other parts of the foot and lower limb, leading to further pain.

Gait Changes

Due to the pain and stiffness in the big toe, individuals with Hallux Rigidus often adapt their walking pattern to alleviate discomfort. These changes can involve placing more pressure on the outer edge of the foot or altering the foot’s roll-through motion during each step. Over time, this can lead to other foot conditions such as bunions or calluses and increase strain on the knees, hips, and lower back, causing additional pain.

Aggravating Factors

Several factors can aggravate the pain associated with Hallux Rigidus, including inappropriate footwear, specific activities, and even weather conditions.

Inappropriate Footwear

Footwear plays a crucial role in managing Hallux Rigidus. Shoes that are too tight, lack arch support, or have high heels can increase the stress on the MTP joint, exacerbating pain. Conversely, supportive and well-fitting shoes with a wide toe box can help alleviate discomfort.

Activities and Weather

Certain activities that put increased pressure on the MTP joint, such as running, jumping, or even long periods of walking, can intensify pain. Additionally, some people find that cold or damp weather can worsen their Hallux Rigidus symptoms.