Big toe pain often results from injury or minor underlying medical conditions. Arthritis, fractures, and gout may all cause pain in all parts of the big toe.
Most cases of big toe pain are easily treatable with over-the-counter (OTC) remedies. However, some causes, such as sesamoiditis, may require more in-depth clinical treatment.
This article provides more information on common causes of pain in the big toe, along with some of their symptoms and treatments.
Various conditions cause big toe pain, with some being more serious than others. They include:
According to the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society, hallux rigidus is the most common cause of arthritis pain at the base of the big toe.
It affects nearly 1 in 40 people over the age of 50 years and is more prevalent among females than males.
Learn more about the symptoms and treatment of arthritis in the toes.
2. Ingrown toenail
An ingrown toenail is a common cause of pain or discomfort in the big toe. It
Learn more about the treatment of ingrown nails.
Gout is a condition in which uric acid builds up in a person’s joints. According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS), it commonly occurs in the joint of the big toe. The body typically removes uric acid through urine, but in some cases, it may build up and cause crystallization in the joints.
Learn more about the symptoms and treatment of gout in the big toe.
4. Turf toe
Turf toe is an injury to the joint of the big toe that occurs during sporting activities.
According to the ACFAS, this injury happens due to repetitively bending the big toe upward or jamming it. Repetitive jumping or running could cause the big toe to bend awkwardly. The condition is more common in athletes who play on artificial turf.
Learn more about the symptoms and treatment of turf toe.
Sesamoiditis occurs when the tendons around the sesamoid below the big toe become inflamed or irritated. This condition is common in runners and ballet dancers.
Learn about the treatment and symptoms of sesamoiditis.
Fractures or breaks of the toes are
- kicks a hard object
- drops a heavy object on the toe
- repeatedly performs a movement that puts pressure on the toe
Learn more about the treatment for a broken toe.
A bunion is a deformity of the joint at the base of the big toe. The joint protrudes outward and creates a visible bump on the side of the foot. This abnormality causes the toe to point in the opposite direction and potentially overlap with the toe next to it.
Many shoes put pressure on the protruding joint, and, over time, the pressure may cause the fluid-filled sac in the joint (bursa) to swell and become inflamed.
Learn more about the treatment for bunions.
Other potential causes of pain in the big toe include:
Additional symptoms and treatments can vary depending on the exact cause of the pain.
In cases of sudden injury or unexplained pain, a person should see their doctor for diagnosis and treatment. A doctor may recommend at-home treatments or other medical interventions that alleviate pain.
Here are some frequently asked questions about big toe pain.
When should I be worried about big toe pain?
A person should see a doctor if their pain is preventing them from engaging in their daily activities, as well as if the pain feels severe, keeps coming back, or is not going away for longer than 2 weeks. A person living with diabetes should always see a doctor for any problems with the legs or feet.
How do I stop my big toe from hurting?
If the cause is just a mild injury, a person can rest their foot in an elevated position while placing an ice pack on the toe for 20 minutes a time over 2–3 hours. A person can also take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for pain relief such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil).
When moving around, wearing comfortable or soft shoes can also help. A broken toe or any other serious condition affecting the toe will need medical treatment.
What can cause toe pain without injury?
A number of conditions unrelated to injury can cause toe pain. This includes arthritis, gout, or an ingrown toenail.
What does pain in the big toe indicate?
Pain in the big toe can indicate an injury or an underlying health condition. Conditions that can cause big toe pain include arthritis, gout, and sesamoiditis. Turf toe, bunions, an ingrown toenail, and fractures can also cause pain in the big toe.
What to do if your big toe really hurts?
If a person’s big toe is causing a lot of pain, it is best to contact a doctor for advice. The doctor will be able to determine the cause of the pain and advise on suitable treatments, which may include treating an underlying condition and addressing the big toe pain directly.
To help alleviate big toe pain, a doctor may advise:
- resting and elevating the foot
- applying an ice pack or cool pack to the toe for around 20 minutes at a time, every 2–3 hours
- wearing wide shoes with low heels and soft soles
- supporting the toe with a toe strap
Big toe pain is often the result of injury or minor medical conditions. In many cases, the cause is easy to treat and fully curable. A person should rest from activities that cause further pain and follow all treatment advice from their doctor.
More serious injuries or medical conditions may require surgery or other medical interventions. In most cases, a person can expect a full recovery if they treat the underlying condition or rest from the activity that caused the injury in the first place.