Ailments of the Big Toe

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Athlete's Foot

Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is caused by several types of fungal organisms. It is quite common and usually easily treated. Two approaches, changing socks and shoes frequently and administering local medications, usually resolve infection.

Bunions (Hallux Rigidus)

If the joint that connects your big toe to your foot has a swollen, sore bump, you may have a bunion. More than one-third of women in America have bunions, a common deformity often blamed on wearing tight, narrow shoes and high heels. Bunions may be hereditary, but many are from wearing tight shoes, and 9 out of 10 bunions occur in women. Too-tight shoes also can cause foot problems such as corns, calluses, and hammertoes.

If you have a painful swollen lump on the outside of your foot near the base of your little toe, it may be a bunionette​ ("tailor's bunion"). Similar to a bunion, bunionettes can be caused by wearing shoes that are too tight. 

Corns and Calluses

Every day, the average person spends several hours on their feet and takes several thousand steps. Walking puts pressure on your feet that's equivalent to one-and-a-half times your body weight. No wonder your feet hurt!

Actually, most foot problems can be blamed not on walking but on your shoes. Corns, for example, are calluses that form on the toes because the bones push up against the shoe and put pressure on the skin. The surface layer of the skin thickens and builds up, irritating the tissues underneath. Hard corns usually are located on the top of the toes or on the side of the small toe. Soft corns may resemble open sores and develop between the toes as they rub against each other.

Ingrown Toenail

An ingrown toenail (onychocryptosis) is a common condition, usually of the big toe, where the nail cuts into the surrounding nail bed causing an infection and pain. 

If you trim your toenails too short, particularly on the sides of your big toes, you may set the stage for an ingrown toenail. Like many people, when you trim your toenails, you may taper the corners so that the nail curves with the shape of your toe. But this technique can cause your toenail to grow into the skin of your toe. The sides of the nail curl down and dig into your skin. An ingrown toenail also can happen if you wear shoes that are too tight or too short. Any of your toenails can get ingrown, but it's most likely with your big toes.

Morton's Neuroma

Morton's neuroma is a thickening of the tissue that surrounds the small nerve leading to the toes. It occurs as the nerve passes under the ligament connecting metatarsal bones in the forefoot. 

Morton's neuroma most frequently develops between the third and fourth toes. It often occurs in response to irritation, trauma, or excessive pressure, and is more common in women.

Plantar Warts

Plantar warts are a common viral skin infection on the bottom (plantar) side of your foot. About 10 percent of teenagers have plantar warts. Using a public shower or walking around a locker room in bare feet increase your risk for developing plantar warts.

Sesamoid Injuries

Sesamoids are bones that develop within a tendon. The one most people are familiar with is in the kneecap, however they most commonly occur in the foot and hand. Two sesamoids, each about the size of a corn kernel, typically are found near the underside of the big toe.

Toe and Forefoot Fractures

Nearly one-fourth of all the bones in your body are in your feet, which provide you with both support and movement. A broken (fractured) bone in your forefoot (metatarsals) or in one of your toes (phalanges) often is painful but rarely disabling. Most of the time, these injuries heal without surgery. A dislocation can be mistaken for a toe fracture, therefore obtaining X-rays to ensure a correct diagnosis is important.

Toenail Fungus

Toenail fungus (onychomycosis) is an infection of the nail and sometimes surrounding tissue. It is extremely common with 20 percent of the general population and 75 percent of people over 60-years-old affected. Often, the problem is cosmetic, but many patients also experience pain. Sometimes toenail fungus can lead to more serious infections.