Does your big toe feel sore and stiff? A stiff big toe can make walking painful and can interfere with your ability to enjoy even the most basic of activities, like jogging and gardening. There are a number of different conditions that can lead to sore, stiff big toes. Here's a look at some of the most likely culprits, and what you can do about them.


Gout is a disease in which your body does not process uric acid properly. It crystallizes and accumulates in your joints. Usually, the big toe is the first joint affected, but other joints like your ankles and knees will eventually be affected too. Here are some signs your big toe problems may be due to gout:

  • The symptoms are worst at night and may even disappear completely during the day
  • Your toe gets red and swollen when it's painful
  • You drink a lot of alcohol (excessive alcohol consumption increase your risk of gout)
  • You're age 40 or older (gout is much less common in younger people)

If you think you may have gout, you should see a physician or podiatrist for diagnosis and treatment. If you are diagnosed, treatment will likely include taking corticosteriods and anti-inflammatory medications, modifying your diet to reduce your uric acid levels (drinking less alcohol and eating less meat), and taking steps to lower your stress levels.


The big toe is not the most common place to develop arthritis, but there is a chance your big toe pain is due to the breakdown of cartilage in the joints. This is especially likely if you've been a long-time participant in a sport that puts a lot of strain on your feet, such as running, long-jumping, or soccer. Signs your toe pain is due to osteoarthritis include:

  • The pain is worst in the morning or after you have not moved your toes in a while
  • The pain is more of an ache than a sharp sensation
  • The pain subsides after you warm your feet by soaking them in warm water, moving them around, or massaging them

If you suspect your pain and stiffness is due to arthritis, you can likely keep it at bay by massaging your feet daily and by making sure you keep moving your toes throughout the day. Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen or naproxen can be helpful when the pain is at its worst. If you don't experience relief, see a podiatrist, who may be able to prescribe a more effective medication.

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