26/08/2021 / Health and Fitness

5 Possibilities Why Your Big Toe Hurts

Hurting the big toe is at its worst when it affects walking or standing with ease. It is essential to analyze the problem and deal with it at the earliest. Here are some of the reasons why your big toe hurts

5 Possibilities Why Your Big Toe Hurts
Mazia AhmedMazia Ahmed

Mazia Ahmed

MSc Nutrition Science, Ph.D. Scholar

Table of Content


Toes aren't that attractive all the time. But if you wonder how important they are, of course, the answer will be in the affirmative, especially when it's about your big toe. Yes, that big toe is undoubtedly the most wanted amongst all, and you can realize it pretty well whenever you feel discomfort in your big toe. But unfortunately, it is that big toe that is quite active in getting itself into painful trouble for multiple reasons. Although we humans are born with the ability to tolerate a range of bodily pains during our lifetime, hurting that little big toe can be a real problem when it doesn't let you walk or stand with ease. So, if you find your big toe painful, it is essential to point out the problem and deal with it at the earliest so that your pain doesn't get into your nerves for sure. So, here are some of the reasons why your big toe might be hurting. Check them out and make the healing faster.

5 Possibilities Why Your Big Toe Hurts

5 Possibilities Why Your Big Toe Hurts

1. Bunion

  • Bunions (bony bump at the base of the big toe) can do a lot more than just hurting your big toe. They form a giant bump on the interior side of the foot, disturbing the alignment of the entire toe. As a result, the toe drifts towards the other toes and sometimes even crosses over them. It is a progressive deformity that worsens over time without showing any sign of improvement. 

  • With time, the toe further moves out of place as the bump grows bigger. Consequently, the toe joint gets stiffer, painful and makes it difficult to walk normally. Bunions, however, develop at a slow pace, and thus, most people have a general tendency to ignore bunions until there's a significant deformity along with pain. But it is also advisable not to wait till the end and seek treatment and care at the earliest. It will slow down the bunion's progression and reduce the pain and need for surgery.

2. Sesamoiditis

  • Sesamoiditis refers to the inflammation that involves the tendons of the foot. It is the inflammation of the two tendons attached to the patella. It occurs when the tendons around a sesamoid (i.e., a bone connected to tendons or are embedded in muscles) below the big toe are inflamed. Sesamoiditis causes pain in the big toe, making it hard to move. It also causes bruising, swelling, and pain on the ball of the foot. It is common in athletes and ballet dancers and is undoubtedly one of the leading causes of pain in your big toe. 

  • There are various treatment options for sesamoiditis, and hence, a person experiencing discomfort must visit a doctor in the first place to avoid complications. The treatment includes steroidal injections, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, strapping or taping the toe, orthopedic devices, and physiotherapy.

5 Possibilities Why Your Big Toe Hurts

3. Gout

  • Gout is the condition when there's excessive uric acid accumulation in a person's joints. According to the studies made by the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS), gout commonly tends to occur in the joints of your big toe. Although the uric acid is removed from our body in the form of urine, in some cases, it may accumulate and cause crystallization of joints leading to severe pain and discomfort. 

  • The common symptoms of gout include inflammation of joints, skin darkening, swelling or warmth, acute pain in midnight or early morning, and sometimes even smooth & shiny skin over the affected area. 

  • Gout is such a disorder that can be easily cured with the help of simple and easy treatments, and the inflammation typically heals in about 3 to 10 days. The treatment procedures include drinking lots of water and other fluids, the elevation of the foot at a height, simple physical activities like walking or standing, coupled with some prescribed medications to cure the pain and discomfort. At the same time, the extent of cure depends on maintaining some food restrictions. Thus, the consumption of foods and drinks that are high in purines is a big no-no. A person suffering from gout should strictly avoid having bacon, liver, seafood, red lentils, and drinking alcohol. 

4. Turf Toe

  • Another notable reason your big toe hurts is the occurrence of a turf toe, which is an injury to the joint of the big toe. It usually occurs while performing sports activities. The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) claims that the turf toe injury is caused due to repetitive upward bending of the big toe. Furthermore, jamming of the big toe, as well as constant jumping or running, can also cause turf toe as your big toe gets bent inappropriately and awkwardly. 

  • Since the turf toe is a consequence of continuous movements, there's no doubt that the pain and swelling will gradually increase with time. Things may further worsen if the injury is acute, as the affected person may experience intense unbearable pain and even loss of mobility in the joints. 

  • The effect of Turf toe can only be minimized if you stop performing the activity or sport that aggravates your injury. The following essentials are hot and cold compression, elevation, and rest. Surgery might be the last resort to cure a turf toe.

5. Arthritis

One of the significant causes of pain in your big toe can be underlying arthritis. There are three types of arthritis occurring in human beings that can intensify the pain and stiffness of your big toe.

3 Major Types of Arthritis

1. Osteoarthritis

It is the primary form of arthritis that causes a kind of 'wear and tear' of your joints, leading to intolerable pain. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the joints happens to wear away. This causes the bones of the joint to rub against each other. Such strong friction between two bones leads to locking up and severe pain in the area.

2. Post-Traumatic Arthritis

Post-traumatic arthritis is a form of osteoarthritis that occurs after a specific injury to the toe. And the critical part is, it can develop even several months or years post the initial injury.


3. Rheumatoid Arthritis

This form of arthritis is an auto-immune disorder that involves an inflammation-causing the immune system to attack its tissues. Thus, rheumatoid arthritis not only gives rise to joint pain and deformity but also causes some other serious medical issues such as high fever, weight loss, heart ailments, kidney disorders, and much more.

Other Conditions Why Your Big Toe Hurts

Apart from the top five possibilities for your big toe pain, there can be some other conditions that might trigger the big toe pain. So, let’s check them out.

1. Fracture

A fracture or a broken toe is one of the common causes of your big toe pain in cases where you don't have any underlying disorder. So, if you recall kicking a hard object or a heavy thing dropping on your toe and experiencing intense pain at the same time, you can suspect a toe fracture in the first place. The symptoms include swelling and pain, and even discoloration around the toe at times. In case of a fracture, the typical treatment continues to be the same therapies as foot elevation, icing or cold compression, toe wrapping, etc.

2. Ingrown Toenail

  • It is another common cause that often hurts your big toe. It happens when you cut your toenail too short or curve it inwards too far. Furthermore, if you wear stiff and tight shoes, things may get aggravated.

  • The symptoms of an ingrown toenail include a hard, swollen, and tender toe followed by soreness and skin darkening. Besides, you may observe pus oozing out from the affected area if it develops an infection.

Facts About Big Toe

3. Nail Infections

Nail infections are a common cause of big toe tenderness. The infections in the toenails mainly occur due to poor hygienic practices causing fungi or bacteria to develop in the area. They may also occur because of chemical intervention or drug reactions. Applying ointments, resting, and giving relief to the toenail provide relief to such conditions.

4. Raynaud’s Disease

  • Raynaud's is a condition in which parts of the body feel numb and cool. It happens when smaller arteries responsible for supplying blood to the skin constrict beyond limits in response to cold and limit the blood supply to the affected area. As a result, the area experiences a loss of sensation. The fingers, toes, ears, and nose tips are often involved in such a response. Hence, Raynaud's disease is a possible cause of hurting your big toe, much to your discomfort. 

  • Besides numbness and chilling effect in your toe, you may also find skin discoloration. The typical treatment procedures involve warm dressing and the use of antihypertensive medications. 

5. Morton’s Neuroma

  • Your big toe pain can also be associated with neurological issues, and Morton's neuroma is one of those. It is essentially a condition where the tissue around a nerve leading to the toes thickens and gives a sharp pain in your toes. It may also cause a burning pain or numbness in the ball of your foot. Morton's neuroma is usually caused by pressure or injury due to running or wearing high heels for a long time. 

  • The treatment for Morton's neuroma involves a range of advanced procedures that include arch supports, footpads, corticosteroid injections, ice packs, strength exercises, and rest. It may also require wearing wide-toe shoes and even surgery for severe cases. 

Word of Wisdom

Whatever the cause might be, the essential point is to immediately see a doctor as soon as you experience pain in your big toe because you never know how much your toe has gotten affected underneath. Remember, a little late can be too late for your big toe to heel.


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