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Big Toe Pain

Foot Pain Bunion

Orthopedic surgeons specializing in treatment of the foot and ankle are used to treating big toe pain. No, we are not necessarily talking about stubbing your toe on the bedpost. Editor’s note: We acknowledge that stubbing your big toe is no fun. We are referring to big toe pain caused by an underlying condition or injury.

Causes for worsening big toe pain are plentiful and probably a good place for us to begin. We asked one of our favorite foot and ankle experts here at Elite, Hannah Cloutier, PA-C, what could be the cause of your big toe pain.


Potential Causes for Your Big Toe Pain


A bunion (hallux valgus) causes the big toe to lean towards the 2nd toe. This may cause pain over the “bump” on the inner aspect of the great toe or pain rubbing of the great toe against the 2nd toe. Bunions may also cause the development of hammertoes and pain in the “ball” of the foot.

Your foot doctor may recommend starting with conservative treatment, including limiting yourself to wearing wider shoes. If conservative treatment does not help, surgery may be an option.



Your big toe may not be the first body part that comes to mind when you hear the term “arthritis”, but it does exist. In fact, it is fairly common.

Arthritis (hallux rigidus) causes big toe pain that is usually found at the top of the toe. This condition may worsen with activities that push the extremes of joint motion, e.g. planks, lunges, and running. Arthritis in the big toe can develop spurs on the top of the toe that when rubbed on shoes, can increase big toe pain.

If you visit a foot doctor near you, they may offer conservative treatment in the form of oral anti-inflammatories, recommending stiffer shoes, or possibly the use of a carbon fiber plate. Our foot doctors in Nashville, TN will sometimes do steroid injections to reduce inflammation.

Surgical options are also available in more severe cases of arthritis.


Sesamoid Issues

There are two small bones, called sesamoid bones on the bottom of the great toe. These bones are each within a tendon that flexes down the big toe. It is possible for inflammation to develop in these bones, as well as other injuries and conditions such as stress fractures or even avascular necrosis.

If one of these bones is the source of pain, you will feel pain on the plantar aspect of the first metatarsal head. Big toe pain is typically worse with activity that pushes the extremes of motion.

Conservative treatment options include oral NSAIDs, use of a boot or carbon fiber plate, and steroid injections. A foot specialist may recommend surgery for cases that do not respond to conservative treatment.


These are just three of many potential sources of big toe pain. If you are experiencing big toe pain, or even general foot pain, our foot doctors in Nashville, TN and Franklin, TN are here to help. Don’t let your big toe pain affect your daily life. Instead, visit an orthopedic surgeon near you.


Our Foot Doctors at Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopedics

Dr. Jeffrey Willers

Dr. Willers is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in the foot and ankle. He has been treating foot and ankle injuries and conditions with Elite since 2005. He has won the Castle Connolly Top Doctor award several times.


Dr. Brian Thomson

Dr. Thomson is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in the foot and ankle. He came to Elite following his work at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine where he served as an Assistant Professor and Director of the Foot and Ankle Center at Vanderbilt Medical Center.

Nick Flory

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