Hallux limitus. AKA arthritis in the big toe joint (the MTP joint). That’s what I have. Thanks to the wise practitioners at Gait Happens, it doesn’t keep me from running.
For me, hallux limitus started as just a sore toe joint; and only sore to the touch. Then I noticed the big toe joint on my right foot was bigger and bonier than that joint on my left foot. Eventually, specific running shoes started to bother it. If any part of the stiffer fabric that is part of the lacing system covered my big toe joint, I couldn’t wear the shoe. Before too long, I had to admit that I was noticing pain while running, hiking, and in my day-to-day activities.
My first visit to a professional was a local podiatrist who diagnosed the problem and told me to wear a carbon-fiber insole (Morton’s extension) to limit movement in that joint. After running with it for a few weeks everything upstream started to complain – my ankle, my knee, my low back. I’m sure my gait changed in response to the rigid insole and of course that affected everything else. Realizing I was going to have to take this problem seriously if I wanted to keep running for the next 50 years, I broke down and got a pair of Hoka Bondis, the recommended running shoe for hallux limitus. I’ve been a dedicated Altra wearer for almost 10 years. I like zero drop, I like a wide-toe box, I like feeling the surface I run on. The Hoka Bondi looks kind of like a snowshoe. It has a lot of rocker so the big toe joint doesn’t have to flex as much as you run. I bought a pair for my birthday and then went home to a scheduled online appointment with Gait Happens.
Gait Happens is a “female-led group of clinicians out to change the world one human sole at a time”. They are chiropractors, therapists, and massage therapists who specialize in feet and how foot dysfunction can affect the rest of your body. When I made my appointment with Gait Happens I was prompted to thoroughly explain my various complaints and history. I also had to take some specific videos and pictures of my feet and gait for the practitioner to review before we met on Zoom. I spent 50 minutes on a video call with Dr. Chelsea Lineberger (Dr. of PT and a cross-fit expert) and needless to say, I took the Hokas back to the store the next day.
Dr. Lineberger asked me a bunch of questions, had me do some specific movements, and then lined me out with about 6 weeks of exercises (both PT exercises and strength training exercises) designed to help not only my arthritic big toe, but also the Morton’s neuroma in my left foot, my tight right ankle, my finicky hamstrings, AND the lingering pain associated with a hip rotation. Within days of starting the exercises, the pain in my big toe joint was practically gone. It was still sore to the touch but my mobility had improved and it no longer hurt from use. Wow!
I followed up with Dr. Lineberger after 6-8 weeks and she lined me out with another 6 weeks of exercises that were adapted to the progress I had made. I feel like I am in a new body. I still have to put the work in and do the exercises regularly to keep my joints happy but it is so worth it. The exercises are an incredibly powerful tool in my quiver of recovery options. Thanks, Gait Happens, for keeping me roadworthy! No one wants to be around me when I can’t run:)