Read below about big toe pain, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your big toe pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Big Toe Pain Symptoms

It is amazing how much trouble one toe gets itself into. While small in comparison to the rest of the body, the big toe is often stubbed, twisted, bumped, or otherwise injured. Dropped items always seem to find it and it is almost guaranteed to get bumped during a midnight walk to the bathroom.

You know the big toe well: it is typically the largest toe and is located on the inner most side of your foot. Your toes remain in contact with the ground almost three-quarters of the time making them a critical component of movement and balance, so, when the big toe hurts, it is noticeable.

Big toe pain symptoms include:

  • Discomfort while walking
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Bruising or discoloration
  • Misalignment
  • Bumps or Other Disfigurement (corns, bunions, ingrown toenails, etc.)

The entire foot consists of bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles with over half of those bones located in the toes. Being the most prominent, the big toe is susceptible to injuries that have the most detrimental effects to daily life when in pain.

While symptoms often follow an easily identifiable traumatic event, it is important to remember that big toe pain symptoms can also result from medical conditions that require treatment beyond what can be performed at home.

Big Toe Pain Causes Overview

Identifying big toe pain causes is an important step towards determining how to seek treatment. The big toe contains several muscles and joints that can all be susceptible to pain from a range of causes.

Environmental big toe pain causes:

  • Trauma: Bruising, spraining, dislocation, and/or fracture can occur when the toe is struck by an object or the toe is stubbed.
  • Nerve Damage: More subtle sources of pain may also occur from athletic activities or simply be the result of ill-fitting shoes. These actions can compress nerves through repetitive actions or one-time events.
  • Surface Damage: Frequent friction and pressure on the toes can result in damage to the surface of the toes. Corns and calluses are examples of such ailments.

Inflammatory big toe pain causes:

  • Autoimmune: Diseases that cause the body to attack itself result in a variety of painful symptoms, particularly in the joints. Arthritis and gout are examples of such autoimmune diseases.

2 Potential Big Toe Pain Causes

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

  1. 1.Valgus and Bunion

    A bunion is a deformity of the joint at the base of the big toe. Certain footwear styles can worsen bunions.

    Generally, better footwear & orthotics can slow the bunion's progression and alleviate symptoms.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    bump on outside edge of big toe, big toe pain, toe pain that gets worse when wearing closed-toe shoes, foot ulcer, pain at the base of the toe
    Symptoms that always occur with valgus and bunion:
    bump on outside edge of big toe
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

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  2. 2.Ingrown Toenail

    Ingrown toenails are a common condition. This occurs when the nail grows into the soft skin of the toe, causing pain, redness, swelling, and in rare cases, infection.

    Usually resolves on its own within a few days.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    toe pain, big toe pain, swollen toes, toenail pain, pain in a toe besides the big toe
    Symptoms that always occur with ingrown toenail:
    ingrown nail, toe pain
    Symptoms that never occur with ingrown toenail:
    pain between the 2nd and 3rd toe, pain in both feet, pain in the front half of the foot, heel pain, pain in the middle of the foot, foot pain that shoots to the toes, pain in one foot, pain in the outside of the foot
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

Big Toe Pain Treatments and Relief

Home remedies such as rest and patience often result in big toe pain symptoms subsiding as pain can often be the result of over/improper use. Under certain circumstances, however, the underlying cause of big toe pain can be more serious and, left untreated, result in long term effects.

Typically, it is wise to schedule an appointment with your doctor for any of the following big toe pain symptoms:

  • Severe pain
  • Persistent pain that does not subside for over a week and/or you have diabetes
  • Signs of infection
  • Swelling that will not subside for several days
  • Pain that prevents walking

Because big toe pain symptoms can originate from a wide range of issues, treatments vary. Several steps are recommended to manage minor discomfort while more serious conditions could require surgery.

At-home big toe pain treatments:

  • Rest, ice, and elevation: The simplest treatment, yet possibly the best for minor pain. While staying off your feet can be a challenge, doing so often leads to reduced pain. Ice applied for approximately 15-20 minutes at a time throughout the day will help reduce swelling.
  • Soak: Soaking the toe in warm water for 3-5 minutes several times can be ideal for corns and calluses. Doing so will allow the tissue to soften and be removed with a pumice stone.
  • Over the counter medications: Anti-inflammatory medications such as NSAIDs like ibuprofen or corticosteroid injections can also help reduce pain.
  • Proper Footwear: You may not realize it, but tight or ill-fitting shoes can damage the toes. Shoes should be wide enough for all toes to fit comfortably.

Professional big toe pain treatments:

  • Surgery: Surgical procedures of varying degrees may be required to remove bunions, repair ingrown toe nails, realign joints, or properly repair broken toes.
  • Injections: The injection of anti-inflammatory medications, particularly at joints, can help with pain. Corticosteroid injections are an example of this application for the big toe.
  • Medications: Gout is treatable with certain medications resulting in dramatic improvement in pain and inflammation.

Big toe pain is unmistakable and even the slightest pain makes walking uncomfortable. Many times, when the pain is manageable, and cause is known, treatment can be applied at home to help get you back on your feet.

FAQs About Big Toe Pain

Here are some frequently asked questions about big toe pain.

Why does my big toe feel numb?

Big toe numbness can be caused for a variety of reasons. Overly tight footwear is a common cause. Tight shoes compress nerves in the toe causing numbness. A symptom of gout is numbness in the big toe in addition to pain. Infections from ingrown toenails may also lead to numbness.

Why does my big toe randomly hurt?

Big toe pain is often caused by strain on the toe from athletics or improper footwear. Either of these causes may result in the toe hurting only after specific incidents. Gout also causes big toe pain, but gout attacks do not cause constant pain, but rather, distinct painful episodes.

Does gout cause big toe pain?

Gout causes pain and swelling in joints and particularly targets the big toe. A type of arthritis, gout is caused by the buildup of uric acid in joints. The condition frequently affects the big toe first before impacting additional parts of the body.

How do you know if you broke your toe or sprained it?

A broken big toe often results in crookedness and significant bruising and swelling. The break may also cause an open wound on the toe. A sprained big toe will most likely retain its form. The toe will exhibit swelling and bruising, but the symptoms will be less severe than if the toe is broken.

What does an ingrown toenail feel like?

An ingrown toenail most commonly affects the big toe, resulting in pain to the touch and redness. Pain is the worst when the toe is bumped, but the slightest touch can sometimes cause discomfort. Wearing shoes may be a challenge. Ingrown toenails can result in infections that cause pus to drain from the area.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Big Toe Pain

  • Q.Is the pain affecting:
  • Q.Did you recently injure your foot?
  • Q.Have you ever been told you have flat feet?
  • Q.Has a bunion formed on your foot?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our big toe pain symptom checker to find out more.

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Big Toe Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced big toe pain have also experienced:

    • 10% Swollen Toes
    • 6% Toe Pain
    • 5% Toenail Pain
  • People who have experienced big toe pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 32% Over a Month
    • 26% Less Than a Week
    • 22% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced big toe pain were most often matched with:

    • 3% Valgus and Bunion
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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