Pain in Your Toes

If you enjoy keeping everything in its proper place, then you should be a big fan of ligaments. These tough tissues connect bone to bone, keeping your skeletal system aligned and operative. In joints such as those in your toes, ligaments form “capsules” to make sure the bones move properly. If these surrounding ligaments bear too much stress and become inflamed, however, it can cause bothersome toe pain. This condition is known as capsulitis.

Too Much for the Toes

Excessive, abnormal force on joints is the typical cause of capsulitis, but the ways in which this happens can vary. Repetitive, work-based motions such as climbing ladders or stooping can be enough to overstretch and inflame ligaments over time. Unsupportive footwear such as flimsy sandals, ballerina shoes, or excessively high heels can also place too much weight on the ball of your foot, toes, and ligaments.

Sometimes, the shape of the foot itself can create abnormal stress and make you more susceptible to toe pain. When your second toe is longer than your big toe, it can place additional pressure on the bones of the second toe and increase the risk of capsulitis. Unstable arches and severe bunion deformities can also contribute to developing the condition.

A Bundle of Symptoms

Capsulitis can develop in any joint, but the most likely victims are in the toes. The second toe is especially vulnerable, for reasons discussed above. This is a common condition that can be suffered at any age.

Symptoms of capsulitis include toe pain and ball of the foot pain. It may feel as if you have stepped on something, or that something is stuck in your shoe. This pain will often be accompanied by swelling in the affected area, including the base of the toe. It may be difficult not only to wear shoes but to walk barefoot as well.

Capsulitis can worsen over time without treatment. In advanced cases, the ligaments may no longer be able to adequately hold the joint in place. The affected toe—especially the second toe—may then drift toward the big toe and overlap its neighbor, creating a “crossover toe.”

Diagnosis and Treatment

It is important to diagnose and treat capsulitis early. The injury shares many symptoms with Morton’s neuroma, a nerve condition that also causes toe pain. The sooner capsulitis is properly diagnosed, the sooner treatment can be recommended to directly address the condition.

Early treatment options for capsulitis are relatively non-intrusive. We may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to relieve the pain and inflammation, and the application of ice also often proves effective. Resting the foot is important, as is avoiding the footwear or activities that likely led to the condition while the ligaments heal. Modified shoes or orthotic devices may be recommended where foot shape has contributed to the problem. These will help support the foot and redistribute weight away from the injured joint.

If the toe has begun to drift, it will never return to its original position on its own. Taping or splinting of the toe can help stop further shifting. In more advanced stages, a surgical procedure may be needed to correct the condition.

Don’t wait if you have persistent pain in your toes or your forefoot. Let Dr. Tejas Pandya and the staff at Capital District Podiatry determine what’s causing your trouble and provide the right treatment to suit your unique needs. Contact us by phone at (518) 273-0053 or request an appointment online.


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763 Hoosick Rd.
Troy, NY 12180

Clifton Park Office

855 Route 146 | Suite 150
Clifton Park, NY 12065

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