Hallux rigidus, also called stiff big toe, refers to arthritis of the big toe joint. People with hallux rigidus have pain, swelling and stiffness around their big toe joint. Activities like flexing the big toe or walking can be challenging, but fortunately, many treatments are available for this condition, including orthotics. Here are three things you need to know about orthotics for hallux rigidus.
How are orthotics for hallux rigidus made?
Your podiatrist will determine your orthotics prescription by watching you walk, looking at your feet, and taking impressions of your feet. This prescription will then be sent to a laboratory, and the laboratory will create your orthotics to the required specifications.
When you receive your orthotics, you'll notice that they don't look like standard shoe inserts. Hallux rigidus orthotics support your heel and midfoot, like standard orthotics, but also have a long extension that supports your big toe. This big toe extension is called a Morton's extension.
How do orthotics treat hallux rigidus?
Orthotics work by restricting the range of motion in your big toe joint. They limit dorsiflexion—the medical term for flexing your toes upwards—and take pressure off of your sore joint. This is helpful because people with hallux rigidus tend to feel pain when they're flexing or pushing their toes off the ground to walk. Not being able to make these movements will offer symptom relief.
While you're wearing your orthotics, you'll need to adjust your gait pattern and learn to walk without flexing your big toe. Your podiatrist can add a forefoot rocker bottom (a rounded sole) to your shoes to make it easier for you to walk while you're wearing your orthotics.
Are orthotics a cure?
Orthotics can help you manage the discomfort associated with your condition, but they won't cure it. According to the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society, non-surgical treatments like orthotics won't stop hallux rigidus from progressing.
Surgical treatments can permanently cure hallux rigidus, but since they're invasive, they're not performed until non-surgical treatments like orthotics have failed to provide necessary symptom relief. If your arthritis worsens to the point that your orthotics don't help anymore, your podiatrist can surgically shave away bone spurs and loose pieces of bone from your big toe joint.
If you suffer from hallux rigidus, orthotics may be a suitable non-surgical treatment for you. Make an appointment with your podiatrist or a clinic like Foot & Ankle Care Center PA to see if orthotics are right for you.