Numbness in The Big Toe Side of The Foot Symptoms & Causes

Usually big toe numbness is caused by compressed or damaged nerves of the foot, leg, or back. Common causes of a numb big toe include tarsal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, or morton neuroma. Read on for more information on causes and treatment options.

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Contents

  1. Symptoms
  2. Causes
  3. 6 Possible Conditions
  4. Treatments and Relief
  5. FAQs
  6. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  7. Statistics
  8. Related Articles
  9. References

Numbness In The Big Toe Side Of The Foot Symptoms

Numbness in a body part is associated with loss of sensation. Many people have experienced this sensation upon falling asleep on a crooked arm or crossing the legs for too long. However, symptoms of numbness in one toe are not as common and can be worrisome. Furthermore, the numbness may be associated with other symptoms that may feel strange.

Common accompanying symptoms of numbness in the big toe side of the foot

For example, symptoms you may also experience that accompany numbness in the big toe side of the foot include:

  • Pain
  • Burning or tingling
  • Pins and needles sensation
  • Lack of coordination or falling
  • Coldness or sensitivity to touch
  • Weak pulse in the legs or feet
  • Sores on the toes and feet that take a long time to heal

These symptoms are often temporary, but unlike being able to find quick relief for symptoms such as numbness in the arms or hands, toe numbness may be more difficult to resolve. As a result, it is important to follow up with your doctor and get appropriate care as soon as you notice symptoms.

Numbness In The Big Toe Side Of The Foot Causes

Toe numbness is the result of injury, compression or irritation of a nerve or a branch of one of the nerves in your foot and sometimes nerves in the leg. The foot is composed of many different nerves and small blood vessels that begin higher up in the leg and branch off in various directions to give blood flow and sensation throughout the foot. Because of this, causes that result in toe numbness are varied but can be divided into the following categories.

Systemic disease

Causes of numbness in the big toe side of the foot related to systemic disease include the following.

  • Metabolic: Dysfunction in the processes that your body uses day-to-day, for example, diabetes, can also affect both the way your nerves function and the diameter of your blood vessels. This causes numbness in the peripheral parts of the body, especially the toes and hands (this condition is known as peripheral neuropathy) [1,2].
  • Circulatory: Conditions that cause narrowing of the blood vessels can reduce blood flow to the limbs and cause losses in sensation. The toes are especially susceptible because they are farthest from large vessels and lose circulation first. Plaque build-up in the blood vessels can lead to narrowing. This process is called atherosclerosis.

Environmental

Environmental causes of numbness in the big toe side of the foot may be related to lifestyle habits or certain exposures.

  • Toxins: Toxins that cause injury to the nerves include heavy metals such as lead and substances such as alcohol. Too much exposure to either can cause nerve damage that leads to numbness.
  • Vitamin imbalance: There are certain vitamins that are essential to healthy nerve function such as vitamin E and B12. Deficiencies in these vitamins over time can lead to nerve damage and injury. Conversely, exposure to too much vitamin B6 can cause numbness in the toe.
  • Trauma: Any situation where the foot or leg is crushed or damaged will result in toe numbness and nerve pain. However, trauma does not always need to be severe. Circumstances as simple as shoes that are too tight can also cause compressive trauma to the nerves of the feet and toes. Even bunions can sometimes damage nerves in the big toe, leading to numbness [3].

Inflammatory

Inflammatory causes of numbness in the big toe side of the foot may include the following.

  • Autoimmune: Many inflammatory diseases that result in the body attacking itself can also affect the nerves and cause injury that results in numbness. Conditions such as multiple sclerosis and lupus are examples of such autoimmune diseases.
  • Infections: Bacterial infections such as Lyme disease and multiple viral infections such as shingles can cause inflammation and nerve injury that results in toe numbness.

6 Possible Numbness In The Big Toe Side Of The Foot Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced numbness in the big toe side of the foot. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Sciatica

Sciatica is a general term describing any shooting pain that begins at the spine and travels down the leg.

The most common cause is a herniated or "slipped" disc in the lower spine. This means some of the cushioning material inside the disc has been forced outward, pressing on a nerve root. Bony irregularities...

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Tarsal tunnel syndrome

Tarsal tunnel syndrome refers to the symptoms that result from compression of the posterior tibial nerve. The posterior tibial nerve provides sensation to the bottom of the foot and controls some of the muscles involved in foot structure and movement.

Symptoms of tarsa...

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Morton neuroma

Morton neuroma, also called by the older name Morton's neuroma, is a thickening of fibrous tissue in the ball of the foot. This tissue encapsulates the nerve leading to the third and fourth toes. It is not actually a tumor of the nerve, as the name suggests.

The thickening is caused by years of trauma, irritation, and/or compression to the feet. High-heeled shoes, especially if narrow or tight, are a common cause. The condition is most often seen in women over age 45.

Symptoms include burning pain in the ball of the foot, especially with walking or running. The condition will not heal on its own and can lead to chronic foot pain.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination of the foot with simple range of motion exercises, and sometimes x-ray.

Treatment includes changing to better-fitting shoes that do not compress the nerve; using orthotics in the shoes to take more pressure off of the nerve; and in some cases the use of corticosteroid injections.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: foot numbness, pain in the sole of the foot, pain when touching the foot, pain in both feet, foot injury

Urgency: Self-treatment

Numbness In The Big Toe Side Of The Foot Symptom Checker

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Diabetic neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage caused by longstanding or poorly controlled diabetes mellitus (DM). Other risk factors for developing diabetic neuropathy include obesity, smoking, cardiovascular disease, and abnormal lipid levels.

Diabetic neuropathy can present as a number ...

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Chronic idiopathic peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy refers to the feeling of numbness, tingling, and pins-and-needles sensation in the feet. Idiopathic means the cause is not known, and chronic means the condition is ongoing without getting better or worse.

The condition is most often found in people over age 60. Idiopathic neuropathy has no known cause.

Symptoms include uncomfortable numbness and tingling in the feet; difficulty standing or walking due to pain and lack of normal sensitivity; and weakness and cramping in the muscles of the feet and ankles.

Peripheral neuropathy can greatly interfere with quality of life, so a medical provider should be seen in order to treat the symptoms and reduce the discomfort.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination; blood tests to rule out other conditions; and neurologic and muscle studies such as electromyography.

Treatment involves over-the-counter pain relievers; prescription pain relievers to manage more severe pain; physical therapy and safety measures to compensate for loss of sensation in the feet; and therapeutic footwear to help with balance and walking.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: distal numbness, muscle aches, joint stiffness, numbness on both sides of body, loss of muscle mass

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Herniated (slipped) disk in the lower back

The backbone, or spine, is made up of 26 bones called vertebrae. In between the bones are soft disks filled with a jelly-like substance. These disks cushion the vertebrae and keep them in place. Although people talk about a slipped disk, nothing actually slips out of place. The outer shell of the disk ruptures, and the jelly-like substance bulges out. It may be pressing on a nerve, which is what causes the pain.A slipped disk is more likely to happen due to strain on the back, such as during heavy lifting, and older individuals are at higher risk.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: lower back pain, moderate back pain, back pain that shoots down the leg, back pain that gets worse when sitting, leg weakness

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Numbness In The Big Toe Side Of The Foot Treatments and Relief

If you experience frequent, persistent episodes of numbness, visit your doctor to find the exact cause of your condition in order to get appropriate treatment.

At-home treatments

Depending on the cause, your doctor may first suggest other at-home/lifestyle modifications such as:

  • A balanced diet rich in essential vitamins to keep the nerves healthy: Fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean proteins can provide your body with the nutrition necessary to maintain your nerves.
  • Regular exercise: Maintaining an optimal weight with exercise and a balanced diet can not only prevent but also control metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
  • Proper footwear: Wear flat or low-heeled shoes made from soft leather that don’t put pressure around your toes. Avoid narrow or high-heeled shoes that can put excess pressure on the toes.

When to see a doctor

If the at-home treatments above do not work, follow-up with your doctor for further treatment options.

  • Medications to relax blood vessels: There are many different kinds of medication that can combat constriction in your blood vessels by dilating (relaxing) them and promoting circulation.
  • Physical therapy: If your toe numbness is due to trauma that causes compression of the nerves and blood vessels leading to your toes, your doctor may suggest therapy to help take the pressure off these body parts, which also may improve your range of motion and posture.
  • Surgery: If other treatments are ineffective and your symptoms continue to progress or worsen, your doctor may recommend looking into surgical options to combat your symptoms.

FAQs About Numbness In The Big Toe Side Of The Foot

What is a bunion?

A bunion (also called a hallux valgus in medical terminology) is a foot deformity that occurs when the first metatarsal bone gradually moves sideways toward the other foot [3].

How do I treat a bunion?

There are multiple treatment options for bunions. The type of treatment depends on the severity of symptoms, the extent of deformity and the presence of comorbidities such as arthritis or diabetes. Nonsurgical treatment includes well-fitting shoes, splints, and physical therapy. However, if symptoms persist despite conservative treatment, surgery is the next step.

Can rock climbing cause numbness in the big toe side of the foot?

Rock climbers often use tight climbing shoes. The tight fit can change the biomechanics of the foot and cause overstrain injuries to the forefoot, especially the big toe. As a result, chronic conditions such as hallux valgus (bunions) can form. Bunions can cause numbness in the big toe side of the foot due to compression of nerves [4].

Are bunions chronic or temporary?

Bunions (also called hallux valgus in medical terminology) develop chronically over long periods. As a result, they will not self-resolve without specific treatment and often get worse over time. However, many nonsurgical options can help treat symptoms. Make an appointment to discuss with your healthcare provider.

How can I stop my bunions from getting worse?

The key to preventing the worsening of bunions is to relieve pressure around the big toe. For example, wear flat or low-heeled shoes made from soft leather that don’t put pressure around your toes. Moreover, avoid narrow or high-heeled shoes that can put excess pressure on the toes.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Numbness In The Big Toe Side Of The Foot

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Have you ever been diagnosed with a psychiatric issue, such as depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, or anxiety disorder?
  • Did you recently injure your foot?
  • When squeezing the 2nd or 3rd webspace of your foot, is there a clicking sound?
  • While lying down on a firm surface, keep both legs straight. Have a friend slowly raise one leg at a time by lifting your ankle into the air. Do you have pain in that leg before fully raising it to a perpendicular position? (This is called the straight leg test.)

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Please take a quiz to find out what might be causing your numbness in the big toe side of the foot. These questions are also covered.

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Numbness In The Big Toe Side Of The Foot Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced numbness in the big toe side of the foot have also experienced:

  • 7% Toe Stiffness
  • 7% Abdominal Cramps (Stomach Cramps)
  • 7% Swollen Foot

People who have experienced numbness in the big toe side of the foot were most often matched with:

  • 60% Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
  • 20% Sciatica
  • 20% Morton Neuroma

People who have experienced numbness in the big toe side of the foot had symptoms persist for:

  • 37% Less than a day
  • 27% Over a month
  • 19% Less than a week

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant (a.k.a. the quiz).

Numbness In The Big Toe Side Of The Foot Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your numbness in the big toe side of the foot

References

  1. Amin N, Doupis J. Diabetic foot disease: From the evaluation of the "foot at risk" to the novel diabetic ulcer treatment modalities. World J Diabetes. 2016;7(7):153-64. NCBI Link
  2. Informed Health Online [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Bunions: Overview. 2018 Jun 28. NCBI Link
  3. Nakatani M, Sasaki H, Kurisu S, et al. Numbness and paresthesia in bilateral toes and soles, and disproportional sweating restricted to face and trunk are suitable symptoms useful for the diagnosis of diabetic symmetric polyneuropathy. J Diabetes Investig. 2011;2(6):464-73. NCBI Link
  4. Schöffl V, Küpper T. Feet injuries in rock climbers. World J Orthop. 2013;4(4):218-28. Published 2013 Oct 18. doi:10.5312/wjo.v4.i4.218. NCBI Link