Normal Range of Motion for the Great Toe

Man doing yoga hold his big toe.
A man grasping his big toe while holding a yoga pose. (Image: amyjosmile/iStock/Getty Images)

You might not think about your great toe’s function all that much, but when it does not function within its proper range of motion, you are likely to notice right away because it will lead to problems with your walking gait. If it malfunctions for long enough, it will also cause pain.

Normal Range

The upward motion for your toes is called dorsiflexion. Your great toe’s normal range of upward motion, or dorsiflexion, is 50 to 90 degrees, according to the University Foot and Ankle Institute in California. Your great, or big, toe is technically called the hallux. When you don’t have full range of motion with this toe, it is called hallux limitus.

Effective Range

Your grain toe plays a role in your body’s forward propulsion when it flexes up and pushes off from the ground. To do this effectively, your great toe needs to dorsiflex to 65 degrees -- anything less than this will not help to propel your body forward effectively, causing other joints in your body to compensate for the deficiency. This can lead to an inefficient gait pattern as well as more strain on the rest of your foot and leg, and can cause pain and fatigue. You may feel this in your foot’s arch, as plantar joint pain or as plantar fasciitis, rather than in your toe itself.

Inadequate Motion Consequences

The end stage of hallux limitus is referred to as hallux rigidus, according to the Podiatry Today website. Your great toe joint becomes jammed over time due to its decrease in motion. Your toe joint suffers constant trauma in this manner, and extra bone growth happens over the top of your joint. This leads to your joint cartilage becoming eroded, which in turns leads to less motion, more pain and arthritis.

Regaining Motion

If you have not reached the end stage, you may be able to regain your range of motion in your great toe with nonsurgical options like physical therapy or orthotics. This typically works in people who are younger, don’t have much history of joint degeneration and are not in much pain, notes Podiatry Today. Others are likely to need surgery.

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