Read below about spontaneous toe pain, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your spontaneous 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.

This symptom can also be referred to as:
Toe hurts for no reason

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Spontaneous Toe Pain Symptoms

Important for providing balance and stability, the toes are part of the body that may sometimes be overlooked. Spontaneous toe pain can be quite a bothersome symptom. However, it is likely related to another condition and can even become serious if ignored — as in the case of diabetic foot ulcers. Other common causes may include less severe foot conditions, such as bunions or toenail problems.

Characteristics

Symptoms that can be associated with spontaneous toe pain include [1]:

Spontaneous Toe Pain Causes

There are many different causes of spontaneous toe pain, including chronic toe conditions that cause pain suddenly, acute injuries that lead to toe pain, and medical illnesses that can cause toe pain among other symptoms. More details can be found below.

Chronic Foot or Toe Conditions

Chronic, or long-term conditions of the feet or toes can lead to toe pain that may arise spontaneously.

  • Bunions: A bunion is a malformation of the foot that causes the big toe to point inwards, and leads to pain and difficulty walking [2]. The cause of this deformity is unknown, but it increases with age. It is possible for this condition to cause spontaneous toe pain, especially with exercise or tight footwear.
  • Toe deformity: There are several common toe deformities, including hammertoe, that can cause toe pain.Typically, these deformities arise from injury, inflammation, or trauma to the foot, although some are genetic. Diabetes and arthritis predispose people to these types of deformities. Toe deformities can cause spontaneous toe pain, particularly with exercise or tight footwear.
  • Nerve problem: Compression of nerves in the foot can lead to toe pain. Typically, the pain associated with nerve compression is described as a burning sensation and is located in between the toes. This pain can be sharp and severe, and come on suddenly.
  • Toenail problems: There are several possible issues with the toenail that can cause spontaneous toe pain. Ingrown toenails occur when the toenail pierces the skin around the nail leading to inflammation and possible infection [3]. A hematoma (bruise) can form underneath the nail if the setting of trauma which can cause pain and discoloration.

Injuries or Acute Toe Conditions

Injuring the toe or having related conditions can lead to toe pain.

  • Fracture: Pain in the toe in the setting of trauma to the forefoot raises concern for a toe fracture. Typically, a fracture would present with acute pain, swelling, and possibly deformity to the area. The pain from a fracture can be very severe.
  • Warts: Warts can form on the bottom of the toes or feet, leading to toe pain. Warts are caused by a virus called HPV type 1. Calluses or corns are small lesions that form on the bottom of the toes or feet from excess pressure to the bottom of the foot, and can be mistaken for warts but are not caused by a virus. Any of these conditions can develop quickly and cause spontaneous toe pain.

Medical Conditions

The following medical conditions can contribute to spontaneous toe pain.

  • Gout: Gout typically causes very severe, sudden pain in the large toe joint. Gout is a disease in which crystals deposit in the joint causing inflammation and pain. While gout can cause pain in other joints, the big toe joint is the most common location [4].
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causes pain and stiffness in the joints, particularly common in the finger and toe joints. This pain can be spontaneous but is more typically chronic in nature.
  • Diabetes: Over time, diabetes affects the nerves in the feet, which can lead to pain, burning, or numbness in the toes and feet [5]. Because the toes are numb, people with diabetes are at higher risk of developing ulcers or sores on their feet or toes that go unnoticed [6]. A serious infection can lead to intense or spontaneous pain. These have the potential to become infected and can be limb-threatening.

9 Possible Conditions

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

  1. 1.Gout

    Gout is a form of arthritis that causes sudden pain, stiffness, and swelling in a joint. The big toe is often affected.

    With proper medical attention, relief is possible within the first 24 hours of treatment.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    swollen toes
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Skin Infection of the Foot

    Cellulitis is a common and possibly dangerous skin infection if left untreated. It is typically caused by bacteria living on the skin getting into the skin itself.

    5 days with treatment

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fever, foot pain, foot redness, warm red foot swelling, swollen ankle
    Symptoms that always occur with skin infection of the foot:
    foot redness, foot pain, area of skin redness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Raynaud Phenomenon

    Primary Raynaud phenomenon is a disorder of the blood vessels, usually in the fingers and toes, which causes the blood vessels to narrow when feeling cold or stressed. When this happens, blood can't get to the surface of the skin and the affected areas turn white and blue.

    This condition is considered irreversible, but it should not prevent you from living a healthy life.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    distal numbness, cold toe, cold fingers, spontaneous toe pain, spontaneous finger pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  4. 4.Nail Infection (Paronychia)

    Paronychia is an infection of the nail folds, typically caused by Staph. Aureus. Or a fungus.

    Great prognosis. Recovery in the next two weeks

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    spontaneous finger pain, fingernail pain, fingernail swelling
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit

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  5. 5.Cellulitis

    Facial cellulitis is a skin infection that typically comes from other parts of the face like the mouth or the sinuses and needs antibiotic treatment. Symptoms can be pain, redness, warmth and swelling of the affected area.

    Dependent on severity of infection

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fever, chills, facial redness, swollen face, face pain
    Symptoms that always occur with cellulitis:
    facial redness, area of skin redness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint but is common in the wrist and fingers. RA is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that it is caused by the immune system incorrectly attacking the joints when it shouldn't.

    RA is a chronic disease which requires lifelong control.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, joint pain, muscle aches, daytime sleepiness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Psoriatic Arthritis

    Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales. Some people who have psoriasis also get a form of arthritis (inflammation and swelling of joints) called psoriatic arthritis.

    This type of arthritis can be managed with treatment, and permanent damage can be prevented. However, the underlying cause (psoriasis) is currently incurable.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    shoulder pain, lower back pain, joint pain, upper back pain, hip pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Toe Fracture

    Broken toes are very common and caused by either something falling on the toe (crush injury) or a stubbing of the toe situation.

    Up to 6 weeks to heal

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    constant foot pain, toe injury, toe pain from an injury
    Symptoms that always occur with toe fracture:
    toe injury, toe pain from an injury, constant foot pain
    Symptoms that never occur with toe fracture:
    toe dislocation, toe injury with broken skin
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Toe Bruise

    Toe contusion (bruise) is the damage of the blood vessels (veins and capillaries) that return blood from your tissues back to the heart. The blood pools there and turns blue or purple. It's typically caused by a bump, hit, or fall.

    2-3 days

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    constant foot pain, toe injury, toe pain from an injury, swollen toes, toe bruise(s)
    Symptoms that always occur with toe bruise:
    toe pain from an injury, toe injury, constant foot pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

Spontaneous Toe Pain Treatments, Relief and Prevention

While some causes of toe pain can be treated at home, many causes of toe pain should be evaluated by a physician. Serious injuries such as fracture require medical attention. If you believe an underlying condition is causing toe pain, especially if you have diabetes, you should consult your physician sooner than later.

At-home treatments

A few at-home remedies may be able to soothe your spontaneous toe pain.

  • Over-the-counter pain medication: If your toe pain is due to an acute or chronic injury, over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help relieve the symptoms.
  • Rest: If your toe pain is related to sports or exercise, taking a break from the activity that causes pain may help with recovery.
  • Ice: If your toe pain is related to inflammation or minor injury such as a sprain, placing ice on the area may help alleviate pain.

Medical treatments

You should consult your physician to discuss the following [7].

  • Steroid injection: In some cases of toe pain, an injection of steroids may reduce inflammation and help the pain.
  • Medications: If your toe pain is due to gout, diabetes, or arthritis, your physician may prescribe medication to control your illness that will help control the symptom of toe pain. If your physician suspects an infection in your toe or foot, they may prescribe antibiotics.
  • Orthotics or special shoes: If your physician suspects your toe pain is due to bunions or another deformity, they may suggest orthotic shoe inserts or even special shoes to help with the toe pain.
  • Wart removal: If your toe pain is due to warts, your physician may suggest wart removal. There are multiple different types of removal, and he or she can help you figure out the best one for your condition.
  • Surgery: If your physician determines a bunion or other structural issue is the cause of your toe pain, he or she may recommend surgical correction.

Seek immediate treatment for the following

If you have diabetes and you have an ulcer or wound on your foot, seek treatment promptly. Diabetic foot ulcers can become infected and be limb-threatening

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Spontaneous Toe Pain

  • Q.Have you ever been told you have flat feet?
  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
  • Q.Did you recently injure your foot?
  • Q.Have you noticed pain, swelling, temperature, or skin color changes on a part of your body that previously suffered a physical injury?

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

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Spontaneous Toe Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

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

    • 17% Swollen Toes
    • 8% Pain in the Top of the Foot
    • 4% Spontaneous Finger Pain
  • People who have experienced spontaneous toe pain had symptoms persist for:

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

    • 50% Skin Infection of the Foot
    • 37% Gout
    • 12% Raynaud Phenomenon
  • 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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References

  1. Blahd WH, Husney A, Romito K, eds. Toe, Foot, and Ankle Problems, Noninjury. University of Michigan: Michigan Medicine. Updated November 20, 2017. UofM Health Link
  2. Ioli JP. What to do About Bunions. Harvard Medical School: Harvard Health Publishing. Updated April 10, 2018. Harvard Health Publishing Link
  3. Ingrown Toenail. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: OrthoInfo. Updated September 2012. OrthoInfo Link
  4. Stewart S, Dalbeth N, Vandal AC, Rome K. The First Metatarsophalangeal Joint in Gout: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2016;17:69. NCBI Link
  5. Diabetes and Foot Problems. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Published January 2017. NIDDK Link
  6. Noor S, Zubair M, Ahmad J. Diabetic Foot Ulcer - A Review on Pathophysiology, Classification and Microbial Etiology. 2015;9(3):192-199. NCBI Link
  7. Medications to Treat Feet. Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis Foundation Link