Hallux Rigidus, also known as golfer's toe, is a condition where the great toe has lost normal range of motion. Characterized by pain, swelling and a bump on top of the metotarsophalangeal joint it can easily be confused with a bunion, which also affects the MPT joint. Degeneration of a joint takes time. Most great toes will have a limited range of motion, Hallux Limitus, before they become stiff. Proper identification of hallux limitus is key as early intervention may prevent a joint from becoming rigid.
Certain types of feet are predisposed to developing Hallux Limitus/Rigidus. Having a fallen arch or a foot that tends to over pronate stresses the MTP joint. Calcium deposits are one way the body protects itself. The more stress a joint is under the harder your body works to reinforce that joint, the only way to stop calcium deposits from growing larger is to reduce the amount of stress a particular joint is undergoing. Typically this means changing footwear and habits however most people wait until the pain is severe and normal range of motion is gone for good.
Shoes with rocker bottom soles may be an option for people whose great toe motion is limited yet not gone. While most shoes bend where they break, at the ball joint of your foot, shoes with rocker bottoms remain rigid forcing your foot to bend where it naturally would. A word of caution here: if you have never worn rocker bottom shoes there is a break in period associated with them. It is also critical that you be fitted for these shoes as the wrong size can do a great deal of damage to your foot.
Hopefully you will never have to deal with either Hallux Limitus or Hallux Rigidus however if you notice swelling, pain or redness at the base of your great toe please have a medical expert examine your foot carefully. As I mentioned earlier, Hallux Rigidus can be mistaken for a bunion so it is best to leave diagnosis to someone with professional training who will also be able to determine how advanced a case may be. Taking care of the feet you have allows your feet to get you where you need to go, pain that does not go away is a warning sign that something is wrong and should be heeded accordingly.