The big toe joint in the foot is an essential joint for normal function and walking. As we are walking or running and the foot is flat on the ground, that great toe joint would need to flex while the rearfoot come up off the surface. If this great toe joint will not bend then to be able to walk and run is going to be much more difficult. Much more energy is needed so walking or running becomes very exhausting. When the motion this is not able to happen with the great toe joint still will need to happen, other joints can be forced to move a lot more during a period that they're not supposed to be moving. This excessive motion can become painful.
You can find a variety of things that can go wrong with that big toe or hallux joint and obstruct this normal motion. One of the more frequent ones is a disorder that usually gets called hallux rigidus and as this name suggests, the big toe joint is stiff and does not flex. The commonest reason behind hallux rigidus is osteoarthritis in that joint. This could be pretty painful and the stiff great toe joint makes walking or running quite challenging. The most frequent therapy for this are drug treatments to decrease your pain, rocker sole shoes allowing some motion to happen and also surgery on the big toe joint.
A less painful type of hallux rigidus is a condition known as hallux limitus in which the great toe joint isn't inflexible but has a diminished range of flexion. As a full range of motion is needed at the big toe or hallux joint for normal biomechanics, this limited movement continues to be a problem. The commonest reason for hallux limitus is osteoarthritis. Usually the management of hallux limitus is pain relief with medication, at times strapping can be used to restrict motion even more so that it is not too painful. Foot supports will often be used to promote a more normal motion with the big toe joint. In the most painful cases surgical treatment could be an option in which a joint implant can be undertaken or the joint is operatively fused to stop it moving.
A different common problem is what is called a functional hallux limitus. This is what's called functional because on a non-weightbearing assessment the hallux joint has a normal range of flexion, but when functioning with the feet on the floor it really doesn't have a full range of motion. The reason for a functional hallux limitus is just not known and the reason why that big toe joint does not work during weightbearing is not clear. This just usually happens in some individuals. Numerous theories have been proposed, many of which appear credible however, there is no direct evidence for one theory above the other.
There are a variety of treatment solutions for a functional hallux limitus that are aimed at restoring normal biomechanics in the joint. Foot doctors commonly use foot supports with different corrections for instance a first ray cut out, the Kinetic Wedge or a Cluffy Wedge. Most of these designs attempt to increase the dorsiflexion at the big toe or hallux joint to help make the joint move more effectively and stop the functional hallux limitus from happening.