Arthritis in big toe

Hi all,

My GP has diagnosed osteoarthritis in my big toe. I am very keen to find out if there are other runners who suffer from the same condition and how you manage this small but rather painful condition?

I am 52 and run approx 4x per week of distances varrying according to ny other activities (mainly swimming and kayaking ) I use orthotics for overpronation

With OA is it a case of lose it or lose it?

Are there special taping techniques I can use? Types of shoe, special orthotics?

............... Or do I just give up?

Any thoughts wuld be very much appreciated.



  • Richard, I've been diangosed with this as well...I see you overpronate...are you flat footed by any chance?

    I've seen a podiatrist and a physio, and now have some orthotics which help raise my mid foot into a more natural shape and therby allows my toe to bend a little more which in theory helps me run more efficiently. If your overpronating orthotics don't help, maybe a repeat visit to where you got them from might be useful?

  • Thank you very much for the response. Yes, I am flat footed. My current orthotics, which I have been very pleased with are to help my flat feet.

    Do you still run? How much pain do you get and does running seem to make matters better or worse?


  • I'm not running currently, but it's not related to my dodgy foot. Once I've got the orthotics in, my foot feels fine, but it is quite swollen around the joint by the end of anything over about 3 miles.

    Since I've been off running, I've not noticed any real difference in pain levels when I walk (non-driver sao lots of walking), so once I'm a bit fitter, I hope to re-start running.

    Brufen gel on the joint helps when it gets too sore.

  • bol saucebol sauce ✭✭✭

    Richard - I have the same, but in both big toes, am flat footed, and also have problems where I broke my right foot a few years ago. And I'm 51 (just). However, I do go for a lot of cushioning and support in my shoes, and do get gripes, but compared to the disabilities a lot of people suffer from, don't suppose I can complain. (Although I might do in later years!)

    One thing though, my toes & the old break really do hurt when I've been swimming - don't know whether this is to do with using foot muscles more when doing this? I'm no expert, but I do try and avoid swimming unfortunately.

    I also take a high strength glucosamine & chondroitin (excuse spelling) supplement every day for my joints.

    Don't give up though! - things may end up far worse, and if you're grimacing and in pain when you're out running in an event, you know that you'll get tons of sympathy from spectators for the effort.

  • Hi there,

    And thank you for the reply. I agree. Really can't complain about a minor inconvenience compared to the real problems of many.

    I note your comments about swimming. I also swim. These days only once or twice a week but still 'try' quite hard. I really appreciate I am entering into the realm of 'sucking eggs' but a thought.....

    When we swim we kick off from the wall many times. Pushing into a resistant medium (water) with a force directly related to the effort we put in. I believe this force to be quite high. Now, If we were doing squats in the gym we would be so careful about muscle / spine alignment... but in the pool??  And I bet there are similar forces going on. With many reps!!


  • popsiderpopsider ✭✭✭
    Interested on what basis they've diagnosed o/a - GPs aren't always right and o/a is sometimes the obvious diagnosis rather than the correct one.  
  • Hi popsider'

    And thank you for the response. I have had blood test; negative for uric acid (gout) and XRay. She made judgement based on Xray. Interestingly, pain seemed to have started not from running but from seakayaking where I push quite hard against the foot peddles. Whilst her diagnosis seems clear I am rather suspicious that whilst my toe may indeed show degenerative changes the pain may be caused by something else? but there again, what do I know and probably not wanting to face the inevitible!


  • Richard,

    Just a thought - but I can't remember the last time I didn't see some level of degenerative change in the big toe joints of a 52 year old. Or 42 year old for that matter.  We (the royal we - I am not a GP) should not rely on imaging to make a diagnosis but instead use it to supplement the clinical findings.  Has the GP even examined your toe out of interest? Did you have both feet X-rayed?


  • Hi SDoB,

    And thank you for your comments. Only the damaged foot was X rayed and the GP only took a rather cursory look at my foot. She is however writing to a specialist.


  • Just a thought and following on from the previous posts, I guess its possible the 'arthritis' in my toe is a red herring with regard to the originin of my pain? The joint is not swollen and I have full range of motion. The sore point is on top of the metatarsalphalangeal joint (think I've got the name right). It doesnt feel in the joint.

    Any ideas?


  • Richard,

    Thats what I was hinting at. I wouldn't want to assume anything, but there is quite a lot of anantomy in the area of the 1st MTP joint, and it would be easy to see a bit of degenerative joint change on an X-Ray (which is pretty much normal to see in a chap of your age) and erroneously attach causation to your current symtoms.

    Glad to hear you have been referred to a specialist - they should get to the bottom of it for you.


  • Hi SDoB,

    And many thanks for your thoughts


  • Helenmat26Helenmat26 ✭✭✭
    I have arthritis in my big toe, it was found on a mri scan, I try and keep it warm and flexible as much as possible, doc said worse thing you can do for it is not move it about, if the weather is changable or wet it is really stiff and sometimes feels like it has a splint on it, I use Voltoral applied directly which really helps, try putting some on about 20 mins before you run, Main thing is if you dont mobilise it it will get stiffer not looser.
  • Thank you Helenm2 !!

    I know this is difficult to answer, but where do you feel the pain? Is it in the joint? And I presume from your thread you have continued to run?!


  • Helenmat26Helenmat26 ✭✭✭
    Yes Richard it is in the joint, the one where the big toe joins on to the foot, mine is quite swollen and twists into my foot but it is better if its kept moving. Yes I run, sometimes when I first set off it is stiff but I usually find it loosens up after a mile or so, wasnt so good in the really cold winter we just had tho. Voltorol does help or ibuprophen gel
  • Thank you Helenm2.

    Gosh, this is a complicated game! I have no doubt my toe 'has arthritis' but I am becoming less certain this is the cause of the pain I have been feeling. My joint shows little or no swelling and the pain has been very much on the upper surface. A 'sore' type of pain if I press it. Ah well, now firmly convinced getting older is a real bugger so better just keep going until it hurts too much or falls off! I will try the various gels

    Thank you for your thoughts


  • Helenmat26Helenmat26 ✭✭✭
    Mine doesnt hurt when I press it but I know everyone is different, good luck
  • Hello, I have a quick question , I have servers osteoarthritis of the big toe , I wanted to know if I will do it more harm by continuing to run ?

  • Sorry for spelling mistake ( servere)

  • Helenmat26Helenmat26 ✭✭✭

    Hi, I didn't expect this to come up from 2010. My toe is much worse now than before, much stiffer and more swollen. I have seen several doctors and all say if I enjoy to run and it doesn't cause too much pain, the benefits of running far outweigh not running, My sports physio gave me some manipulation exercises to do so he didn't say not to run either, but really you should see your own medical expert as each case is different.  I have done 2 10ks and 2 half marathons this year so I am still running! Good luck. 

  • Hi , I've have only been told yesterday that I have srevere osteoarthritis of the big toe , caused by a injury 15 yes ago. But only this yr it has become very painful , especially when I'm running. I didn't get a chance to ask my doctor if by continuing to run, would it make it worse. I have got some Fenbid Gel , which I must say just using it for one day has reduce the pain. Anyway I would be very grateful for any helpful feed back. Tanya .

  • Helenmat26Helenmat26 ✭✭✭

    I have never heard of Fenbid, what is it and is it in the uk?


  • Pete HoltPete Holt ✭✭✭

    Tanya, with arthritis it is a good idea to keep the joint moving, however, whether that would allow you to continue on as normal is a different matter.

    Speak to a physio is my advice he she will be best placed to advise you on the amount of running you can do.

  • Hi!

    I'm 25 with the same problem.... I did a trail half marathon a couple of weeks ago and I could barely move my big toe afterwards.

    I seem to differ from everyone else in that I have high arches, and orthotics from the podiatrist actually made my toe joints worse and more painful! So I've stopped wearing them and things have improved.

    Physio gave me exercises (like picking up socks with my toes... and pushing the joint left/right/up/down). I find ibuprofen in the middle of a race sometimes eases the pain a little, and then just lots of wiggling the toes afterwards when they get a bit stiff!

  • Hi everyone,

    To be honest I am not really a runner, but do have 2 workout sessions per week plus cycle sometimes. I have been diagnosed with mid-foot arthritis at 55, and it is very depressing, although Ibuprofen pills certainly help. I find walking a lot or standing for long periods is very painful. Can anyone share their experiences at all?

  • I get 3 times yearly cortisone injections for my toe joint. Have found this definitely takes the edge off the pain.
  • Hi! I'm 61 and still trying to recreationally run as much as possible. Sometimes I manage to run up to five days a week, sometimes 3, sometimes not at all. I have been experiencing the kind of muscle and bone pain after my run that I haven't experienced earlier. It is not excrucial pain but it is unpleasant. Does someone know something that could ease the pain?
  • I am using cream and pills to help me with my arthritis but it says on the box that it is good for calming the muscles after exercises. Try to google it, it is called Acuraflex. Good luck.
  • Thank you all so much for this discussion.  I've run for years on my" dodgy  toe"... I've mentioned it to my physio etc over the years and got  orthopaedic insoles and so on..but I'm almost certain that now I'm going to have to " do " something as it hurts more on the bottom of my foot than before ( also asked for a referral to specialist) . Been worried that if to continue to run I'll damage it further or other parts of my body.  Also now having a panic that it's my fault .  I'm a nurse so know it's stupid and I'd still have run anyway! . And I've always  cycled/ sailed/ swam/ walked  etcetera too & still do. I am thinking I probably need to do some more of these activities until I'm seen ( & take the copious turmeric , glucosamine etc I've just  purchased!!like a loon!)  but your posts have really helped. Horrified to think I may not be able to run having done it all my life..and looks like a  fusion of a toe is what that could keen to avert..but  Don't want to keep running if would ultimately mean that I bugger everything up for myself that I can't walk either. 
    Be really keen to know how you all get on. 
    Sorry for the offloading " dump"!
    Have a great day. Kirsten
  • 8ace8ace ✭✭
    Im pretty sure I've had big toe arthritis for the last few years. It clicks and have a brief light pain every now and again but it doesn't affect my running at all, even long runs I think it actually helps to run personally

    It's mainly a little bit stiff first few hours a day in work in the cold months but loosens up after that.
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