Hallux Rigidus

An unmovable big toe, known as Hallux Rigidus, is the most common form of arthritis in the foot.

Hallux Rigidus occurs as a result of wear-and-tear injuries, which wear down the articular cartilage, causing raw bone ends to rub together. A bone spur, or overgrowth, may develop on the top of the bone. This overgrowth can prevent the toe from bending as much as it needs to when you walk. The resulting stiff big toe can make walking painful and difficult.

Symptoms include:

  • A bump, like a bunion or callus, that develops on the top of the foot.
  • Pain in the joint when active, especially as you push-off on the toes when you walk.
  • Stiffness in the big toe and an inability to bend it up or down.
  • Swelling around the joint.

Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications are often prescribed to reduce swelling and ease the pain. Note: Please consult your physician before taking any medications. Applying ice packs or soaking the foot in contrast baths (alternating cold and hot water) may also help reduce inflammation and control symptoms for a short period of time.

When conservative treatment fails, surgical intervention is often necessary. On your first visit to the Ford Center for Foot Surgery, x-rays will be taken. Most often the x-rays will show extensive calcium deposits or spurs around the joint. This is what limits the motion of the joint. The important thing that x-rays will show is whether or not there is cartilage remaining within the joint.


If the x-rays show that there is still good joint cartilage remaining then all that will be necessary is to clean the overgrowth of calcium from around the joint. This is not a complex procedure and our patients are generally able to wear a comfortable shoe after surgery.

If the x-rays show that the cartilage in the joint is severly limited or absent, then then joint will have to be replaced. Some surgeons prefer to fuse the joint but then the patient is limited to the type of shoe that can be worn. We prefer to use a flexible joint implant, thus maintaining the motion and function of the joint. This procedure is somewhat more involved and you will be required to wear a post-op shoe for 2-3 weeks.