Skip to content


    Attention All WebMD Community Members:

    These message boards are closed to posting. Please head on over to our new WebMD Message Boards to check out and participate in the great conversations taking place:

    Your new WebMD Message Boards are now open!

    Making the move is as easy as 1-2-3.

    1. Head over to this page:

    2. Choose the tag from the drop-down menu that clicks most with you (and add it to any posts you create so others can easily find and sort through posts)

    3. Start posting

    Have questions? Email us anytime at

    OA of big toe, anybody?
    Aqua14 posted:
    Hey there,

    I'm new to this board; I was just diagnosed yesterday with arthritis of the big toe. I'm wondering if anyone else here has this and can share their experiences, since I really know nothing about arthritis.

    I'm not sure, but I think mine started last year after I jammed my toes hiking in the mountains for a week. It's just been getting steadily worse over the past year.

    I'm taking Aleve per my doctor's recommendation, exploring whether an orthotic might help, and this weekend I'll be looking at shoes with stiff or rocker bottoms to help avoid flexing that big toe joint (shoes like Dansko, MBP and Skechers rocker bottoms).

    If anyone has any ideas about types of exercise to do or to avoid, I'd appreciate that as well. I'm mainly a cyclist during the nice weather, but I like hiking as well as snowshoeing and x-country skiing. At the health club I mainly do the elliptical and spinning/exercise bike. I'm wondering if any of those activities will aggravate this.

    Thanks in advance. Judy
    georgia888 responded:
    Hello Judy,
    If you haven't research "gout," please do so as this could be your problem. I'm not a medical professional but tend to believe that it probably has more to do with your hiking incident & is not gout however, it's keep to become as educated as possible on the subject.

    I have OA in various joints including my feet. My podiatrist once told me that unlike OA in other joints, those in the feet will over time, repair themselves. He stated that it is a painful process, but I found this to be encouraging just the same.

    If your pain comes & goes, I would suggest staying away from weight bearing exercises during painful flares. Continue with the cycling & look into swimming as it's very therapeutic for all joints.

    Listen to your body & then resume the weight bearing exercises when you get the green light from your toe.

    Good luck & please keep us updated on your condition.

    RubyJewel responded:
    Judy I am sorry for your diagnosis. Twelve years ago I received the same. I tried everything, joint nutrition, acupuncture, orthotics, fairly unattractive shoes and no heels ever. I had to give up my beloved yoga classes because I could not bend my toe. After 5 years I finally agreed to toe joint replacement surgery and it took over a year for it to be normal again. I can bend the toe and do anything I want to except wear heels. Last year I had the same surgery in the other foot and the healing time was incredibly faster, only 6-7 months and I am so pleased. I do not want to discourage you, but in retrospect I wish I had not taken so much time trying to find an alternate solution. The arthritis kept getting worse and more painful and I "wasted" several years. I feel 15 years younger now that both my feet no longer are in pain with every step. Good Luck to you.
    bookcrazzzy responded:
    Hi Judy,
    I have had arthritis of both big toes for a long time as well as arthritis in other areas of my feet due to structural birth defects. I was told that I would have to have joint replacement soon around 6 or 7 years ago. However, I have worn thick GEL-TYPE custom orthotics for years and my doc decided to have them cut a circle out of the orthotic (not all the way through though) under the big toe joint. Since we did that, I have had almost no pain and no locking up of the joint. I do wear high-quality athletic shoes with the custom orthotics all of the time. I get new orthotics yearly and the "old" orthotics go into the slippers that I wear around the house. As I said, my orthotics are a very thick (more than an inch under the arch!) gel type material with a sort of foam top. This has been amazingly effective for me and has already given me years of nearly pain free movement without joint replacement. I hope this helps you. I will also say that it has been hard for me at times to find orthotic places that can make the type of orthotics I wear but it is worth the effort to search them out!
    bookcrazzzy replied to bookcrazzzy's response:
    I should add, Judy, that the cut-out under the big toe is quite shallow, maybe 1/16" and maybe as big around as a quarter (or maybe a nickel). You could try buying a $10 pair of orthotics at the drug store and making the modification yourself to test whether or not this would be helpful to you.
    Aqua14 replied to bookcrazzzy's response:
    This is all very helpful, thanks everyone. I have done more reading now too. It's a heck of a lot more serious than I thought it would be when I first heard the news from my doc on Monday.

    Georgia888 -- It isn't gout per my doctor. But I did read about that. And I guess I'll have to take up swimming for exercise, which currently I find to be boring. But if I have to change, I will.

    RubyJewel -- I am afraid of that foot surgery. Not being able to hike or, especially, bike for a year -- I will go nuts! Not to mention probably getting fat and my muscles wasting away. Still, my doc has it pegged as "moderate" with bone spurs that are making my second toe numb, so I definitely have to seriously consider surgery if more conservative measures don't provide enough relief. It's awful having pain with every step of my right foot, and it makes me walk funny and is thus hurting my knee and hip and back as well. What kind of surgery did you have, and how long before you could drive a car?

    Bookcrazzzy -- I have read about something similar on a runners' forum, where a guy cut out most of the insole in his running shoe under the joint of his big toe. He said it allowed him to run pain-free because the toe didn't flex. I'm not a runner but I may experiment with one of my old pairs of running shoes that I use for the health club. The principle makes good sense to me.

    Has anyone used the X 1 Blade orthotic for hallux rigidus made by Indiana Brace? I did order one of those to see if it would help, at least with daily walking.

    Thanks again everyone for sharing your thoughts and insights. Please let me know if you have any other ideas for me to think about. Judy
    pattiyan responded:
    I have arthritis all over the place. I have it in my big toe because I broke it.I was told that injuries can bring on arthritis.Rugby players get it in their hips.You probably have strained it by hiking. I have orthotic shoes which do help. All I do is circle my feet, but the left one won't do this, turn my feet up and down and TRY to bend the toes up and down.
    You could TRY Quinine tablets which are really to help cramp, but I was told that you shouldn't take them continuously because they can cause temporary blindness.
    You must try to exercise regularly for arthritis to avoid it getting worse.
    Have you had an ESR blood test by any chance. for crystals formation? Pattiyan
    pattiyan responded:
    My mail has vanished so in short exercise, orthotic shoes are good, athletes get arthritis,injuries bring on arthritis. I bend my toes up and down, then my whole feet and circle them, but I can't do the left one.
    I have arthritis all over the place. You could try quinine which is for cramp,but if you take it constantly it can cause temp. blindness.
    Hope this submits. First one was much longer.
    healing62body responded:
    Pretty unique, we are! I was diagnosed 15 years ago with the same in both toes. I had been a race walker; my doctor was sure I had been a ballet student as he sees this with dancers. Orthodics help tremendously. A good doctor will create orthodics for you that raise/support the ball of the foot to take some stress away when your foot flexes. Several years ago I purchased rocker lace up shoes and they changed my life in that I can now walk reasonable distances without lots of pain. Finding someone to fit you well with shoes is also very important. My podiatrist suggested a cobbler in our town who is an expert in fitting shoes and carries a very limited supply of shoes for folks with foot problems. (What I spend on expensive well fitting shoes I save in the quantity of pretty shoes I would have loved to load up my closet with!!) I used Motrin on trips and activities when I did not want to be compromised by pain but used ibuprofen intermittently otherwise. I eventually had my right toe operated on (ten years ago) as the pain became extreme and kept me awake. The surgery cleaned out the fragments in the joint, reduced the bone spur created by bone on bone rubbing and loosened the tissue under the foot at that joint where it had all congealed onto the bone. I have zero cartilage in those joints. I was offered a fusing of the joint which I am glad I did not agree to as it would have compromised my whole body alignment. I was told I was too young at that time (45) for a joint replacement as they wear out. In the long run I am glad I undertook this surgery however it took two years for the pain from surgery to diminish. Now the right toe remains better than the left. The surgeon also put in artificial cartilage that had just been approved by the FDA but x-rays showed that it did not attach and dissolved. This condition has changed my foot placement when walking as the outer sides of my shoes are well worn so I obviously try to mitigate flexing my big toes. I had to give up cross country skiing and snow shoeing as they require significant flexing of the toes. I love Pilates, the machine kind, yoga and water aerobics. Unfortunately, this is arthritis and my body shows other evidence of this so I take a stronger medication to be able to remain active. Diclofenac works well for me although there are lots of other NSAIDS. When I want to dump the medication, my doctors ask me what quality of life I want and how active I prefer to be. We have choices; they may not be the ones we anticipated or preferred. Sometime in the future, I may consider joint replacement surgery but so far my condition now seems stabilized.

    Best wishes on your journey.
    Aqua14 replied to healing62body's response:
    Healing62body, thank you so much for sharing your experience. Two years post-surgery pain? Holy cow.

    It's so sad to hear that you had to give up snowshoeing and cross-country skiing! I love both of those as well as hiking. It is hiking that gives me the most pain, particularly hills. Luckily my bicycling does not hurt me, I think that's mainly because my biking shoes (which have cleats) are extremely stiff and there's no flexing of my toe.

    I went to a podiatrist yesterday and she took additional weight-bearing x-rays of my foot and toe. From what she said I would bet she'll be advocating for surgery (cheilectomy, bone spur removal) when I see her next week to review the x-rays. I think I'll get a second opinion from a sports medicine podiatrist in the area. My life is not in a good place for me to have surgery right now and if conservative measures can relieve some of the symptoms I'm comfortable waiting for some time.

    I have also been reading a lot and found an interesting website of a California podiatrist who is a big advocate of conservative treatment to try to avoid surgery until it's absolutely necessary. I'm trying some of his suggestions such as spica taping of my toe, frequent icing, and avoiding all things that will aggravate my toe, such as stairs and using the elliptical machine at the health club. And I'll use my orthotic once it arrives in the mail.

    You're right in that we have to simply deal with what life's given us and not rail against what we cannot change. I'm still getting to that acceptance stage -- but heck, I was never meant to be a mountain climber anyway.

    Thanks again. Judy
    undefined responded:
    I got osteoarthritis in my little toe after jamming. I haven't been able to hike or snowshoe, and even swimming hurts. Hard bottom shoes and ice help, but it's hard to get through the day.
    undefined replied to Aqua14's response:
    Hi Judy,

    I just found this post of yours from 2 years ago. I am in the same position right now. I think injury caused my orthoarthritis in my right big toe joint. My podiatrist fitted me for orthotics, which I will be picking up soon, but thinks surgery is imminent. I am petrified of the surgery and recovery. I am 46 and have 4 kids in sports and other activities.

    I also love yoga, which I cannot do, due to the bending of the toe pain.

    Can you please give me an update on what you've done since?

    mollysmummy19 responded:
    Hi there, im new to this too, just signed up. I selected your query to respond to as i have OA in my big toes as well as the rest of my feet and many other places too. Cycling is actually good exercise for your toes, try also picking little things up with your toes, it helps strengthen them. Despite my OA and several operations to help straighten my congenital deformity That made the OA far worse), my surgeon commented on what incredible dexterity i had in my feet and toes. I've been a horse rider and cyclist most of my adult life and she put the flexibility i had kept, down to the mobility of my feet and toes, constantly putting pressure even slight, on the ball of your feet and your toes, keeps them supple. try a can or rolling pin underneath your feet. sit on the edge of a chair, put the tin under your foot, one at a time and roll the foot forwards and back, gently, just a few times to start with. You can even do this in your bath. you can buy foot exercisers for things like Plantar Faciitis, they are brilliant if you just put your foot on the rollers and roll back and forth. Walking in your bare feet can also be good, only on soft ground though. Everything ion moderation. Remember you cant stop Arthritis but you can live with it and reduce your own pain by increasing and keeping your foot and toe strength and flexibility. That saved me from major foot surgery, i just had foot reconstruction, much easier.
    mollysmummy19 replied to 36589310's response:
    Just to add a bit more regarding shoes. I always wore shoes/boots appropriate for riding but now i have to wear things like the shoes with the rocker sole, amazingly comfy and relieve you of so much pain its incredible. I have boots in them too, but on the slightly cheaper side i wear trainers that have thicker soles and a slight heel, that puts your foot into a good position for walking especially. If you shop around you can pick up the rocker soled shoes for around ?15, i have. Avoid slip on footwear as they encourage you to 'grip' with your toes, try lace up or Velcro fastening, they can be very fashionable too. Sketchers are great, some of the Hotter shoe/trainer range are also very comfy. Be kind to your feet, we all ignore or feet be=cause they're covered up most of the time, take a few minutes, pamper them. Get a foot spa and use it, Wear socks, thin cotton that breathe with your feet, wash and scrub your feet, have a regular pedicure and massage, give or get your other half to give you a foot massage, gentle not firm, it may hurt a bit at first but will get easier and less painful as your toes get use to the pampering, and finally, put your feet up, keeping your feet elevated is great relaxer.

    Helpful Tips

    Be the first to post a Tip!

    Related Drug Reviews

    • Drug Name User Reviews

    Report Problems With Your Medications to the FDA

    FDAYou are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.