Hallux valgus: causes, symptoms and treatment

Photo of a foot with hallux valgus (hallux valgus)

Hallux valgus is a deformity of the big toe in which the metatarsal bone deviates (inwards) causing a pathological angulation of the big toe, with inflammation, pain, reddening and swelling on the head of the 1st metatarsal.

Hallux valgus: what are the symptoms?

There are many reason why this pathology may occur. There may be a genetic predisposition towards the condition, often passed on by a parent. Hallux valgus affects many more women than it does men for reasons to do with the type of footwear used and the female hormonal status compared to that of males. Wearing tight shoes with a heel can bring on the pathology as it increases the load and rubbing on the head of the 1st metatarsal.

Wearing specific types of footwear (tight-fitting, with a heel, metal toe caps, etc.) or periods of extended walking can instigate an inflammatory process on the head of the 1st metatarsal, accompanied by pain at the base of the big toe.

In some cases, the symptoms increase in intensity to the point of creating serious difficulty in wearing normal shoes and restricting deambulation. If the symptoms of Hallux valgus are ignored, in time other foot pathologies may develop (e.g. hammer toe, claw toe, metatarsalgia etc.).

Ignoring the symptoms, without seeking the advice of a Specialist, could lead to long-term complications including an increase in the painful symptoms and genuine postural imbalances that may create problems in other joints higher up (ankle, knee, hip and spine).

Hallux Valgus: conservative treatment

The first line therapeutic/conservative approach (when the hallux valgus is only mildly deviated and the pain is not severe) consists of preventing the deformation of the 1st metatarsal from getting worse with the aim of preventing the need for surgical intervention and immediately improving the patient’s quality of life.

The treatments used are:

  •  A personalised corrective silicone orthosis to keep the toes separate and in position for the purpose of cushioning and protecting the big toe from rubbing against the footwear;
  • Corrective plantar orthoses that provide relief for the painful metatarsal head;

Although these treatments are useful and slow down a worsening of the hallux valgus condition, any deterioration in the deformity and the symptoms will necessitate surgery.