No other joint in the body takes more stress per square inch than the great toe joint (the big toe). Think about it. About three-fourths of your body weight is fully supported by an area about the size of a walnut with every step you take while walking. If you do any running then the force can go up four fold. Now multiply than by hundreds (or thousands, depending on your activity level) for every step you take each day. Then consider the fact that the average person walks the distance of about four times around the world in their lifetime. Our big toes are remarkable structures, and they usually work amazingly well. But sometimes problems do arise and make life at best uncomfortable and at worst miserable.
What causes most big toe joint problems?
There are two main categories of big toe problems. Both are problems with alignment. The first are called Bunions, or a more fancy term is hallux valgus. What happens with this deformity is the big toe drifts towards the second and there is a bump on the inside of the foot. This causes a lot of difficulty with shoes and joint pain because the joint surfaces are not lined up. Imagine your knee bent sideways about 30 degrees and you get the idea of why this can be such a problem. It usually bothers women more frequently than men because it is more socially acceptable for a man to wear a wider shoe.
The second main category of big toe joint problems is what is called hallux rigidus or hallux limitus. This is latin for “big toe don’t move”. The main problem is that the big toe cannot move in an upward direction at the big toe joint. In this deformity, instead of moving sideways like in a bunion, the first metatarsal head (bone that the toe attaches to) moves or is fixed in a position too high. The bump is on the top of the foot instead of on the side. This makes the joint stiff because the toe bone cannot go high enough to get over the metatarsal head and the joint jams. This results in arthritis symptoms. The joint space narrows, spurs form on the top of the toe and sometimes fracture off. This problem seems to affect men more frequently than women.
These problems are both primarily caused by genetics, and can be made worse by improper shoe gear
What can I do to help my feet feel better?
First, sensible shoes are critical. You don’t have to wear them all the time, but taking pressure off the prominent bones can be very helpful. We carry Doctor-Approved Sandals and Shoes, hand-picked by Dr. Silvester. These include diabetic shoes by Dr. Comfort, Moszkito Sandals, and Orthaheels, which were designed by a podiatrist and offer a built-in arch support. Our patients love them! We also carry a variety of pads that help ease joint pain, including “bunion shields” made out of silicone that can cushion the bunion to relieve pressure and reduce pain.
As always, if you or someone you know are suffering from Joint Pain or any foot and ankle conditions, we welcome you to contact us at 210-375-3318 for an appointment at our Universal City or Pleasanton, TX offices.