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My big toe hurts but I'm embarrassed to say so...

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

Estimated read time: 1 minute & 37 seconds

Big toe hurting, but feel strange saying so?

Trust me, you're not alone...

3-2-1 GO


01| Bye-Bye Ego

Kind of tricky to come up with a cool party story of why my big toes hurts...

If you are dealing with big toe pain, and were like me, you may feel embarrassed to say so.

I remember feeling so deflated having to my wife that I didn't want to go running BECAUSE OF MY TOE!

Ego = deflated....

Thank goodness being a physical therapist I get to see how common an issue this actually is... Bonus, I know there are ways to address it and still continue to stay active in the mean time.

Just as you've likely heard from your coach before to leave your ego at the door, it's time to drop your ego here as well and take the first step. Yes, say it out loud: "My name is _____________, and I have big toe pain."

02| Upstream??

As it is with most aches and pains, there is a good chance that something else is actually the root cause...

Typically we look "upstream" and "downstream" to where you are experiencing pain, but lucky for you, there is only one way to go here 😎

All so often, limited range of motion at the ankle and hip (yes, your hip), can be a root cause of that pesky (and ego crushing) big toe pain.

Take a minute to assess your ankle dorsiflexion flexibility.

We suggest the Wall Test as a quick screening tool here.

Moving on, lets inspect that hip mobility... Specifically we want to look at hip extension here as limited hip extension will mean more movement needing to happen at your big toe when running and lunging. Not as easy to assess on your own, but if your immediate reaction when asked to perform the real "couch stretch" is to laugh, then you may be onto something...

03| Big Toe Strength GAINZ!!

Look, I'm trying hard to make this topic sexy... But seriously a very common cause of big toe pain is due to "weakness."

Now you say" "but Matt, I deadlift 2x my body weight and am the squat champ of my 9:30am class. You want to call me weak again to my face!?!?!"

Okay, okay... Let me try to re-inflate your ego a bit. You are so strong and lift so much weight with your big muscles that some of the smaller stabilizer muscles maybe aren't keeping up.

Oftentimes an improperly developed flexor hallucis longus (aka the muscle the flexes your toe down), can lead to an irritated tendon (i.e., flexor hallucis longus tendinopathy).

If you crushed it with the range of motion tests above, then some big toe GAINZ might be in your near future


Take home point...

  • Big toe pain is actually quite common and SHOULD be addressed.

  • Check upstream for range of motion limitations.

  • You may need to strengthen up the muscles in your foot.


Your goals? Lets Crush Them!

Your Thrive HQ Team

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