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Foot Exercises

Hallux Rigidus Exercises

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Posted 2 years ago


Last updated: 08/11/2023


by James McCormack

James McCormack
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Hallux Rigidus affects the big toe joint, limiting the range of motion and becoming increasingly painful and stiff as the condition deteriorates. The correct footwear, insoles and exercises can significantly improve pain levels and reduce the speed of deterioration in those with the condition.

Hallux Rigidus is a condition that we regularly see in our clinics. In this article, we will provide the exercises that, in our experience, provide pain relief and help to preserve the joint.

Best Exercises for Hallux Rigidus

The best exercises for Hallux Rigidus should consist of a range of motion exercises for the ankle and big toe joint, stability exercises for the foot and strengthening exercises for the big toe joint.

A loss of dorsiflexion of the big toe joint is associated with this condition, so we aim to maintain your current flexibility without irritating the joint; with that in mind, be careful to avoid overstretching or forcing a stretch into the big toe as this has the potential to inflame the area.

Improving the stability of the foot reduces the force being applied to the big toe. In addition, the reduced range of the big toe can weaken its muscular attachments as patients use it less and less subconsciously. Hence, it is essential to strengthen muscles such as the Flexor Hallucis Longus in isolation.

Stretching Exercises for Hallux Rigidus

Soleus Stretch off a step

  • Stand with your heels off the edge of a step.
  • Bend your knees while slowly lowering your heels.
  • Stop and hold once you feel a stretch on your Achilles Tendon.
  • Hold: 45 seconds
  • Repeat: 3-4 times daily

Plantar Fascia Stretch For Mild Symptoms

  • Standing upright, facing a step or wall.
  • Bend your knee while keeping your heel on the floor.
  • Bring your knee as close to the wall/step as possible.
  • Only perform this exercise within a pain-free range.
  • Hold for 45 seconds.
  • Repeat 3-4 times daily.

Stretch For Moderate or Severe Symptoms

  • Standing upright, with your big toe on the rolled-up towel.
  • Bend your knee while keeping your heel on the floor.
  • Bring your knee over your toes as much as possible.
  • Only perform this exercise within a pain-free range.
  • Hold for 45 seconds.
  • Repeat 3-4 times daily.

Balance Exercises for Hallux Rigidus

Single Leg Balance On a Cushion

  • Stand on one leg with your foot on a cushion.
  • Hold your opposite leg out in front.
  • Focus on a point in front of you to help with stability.
  • Hold for 60 seconds
  • Repeat 3-4 times daily.

Soleus Muscle Strengthening

  • Stand upright with both knees bent.
  • Maintain the bend in your knees while lifting your heels off the floor.
  • Slowly return to your starting position to complete one repetition.
  • Repetitions: 25
  • Sets: 3

Flexor Hallucis Longus Strengthening

  • Wrap a resistance band around the big toe.
  • Lower the big toe to the floor against the resistance band, keeping the other toes still.
  • Slowly release the big toe upwards to complete one repetition
  • Repetitions 15
  • Sets 3

Exercises to avoid with Hallux Rigidus

In general, if you have Hallux Rigidus, you should avoid any painful exercises on your big toe or those that are painful within 24 hours of performing them. 

In our experiences, exercises to avoid with Hallux Rigidus are as follows:

  1. Lunges
  2. Front Plank
  3. Calf Raises
  4. Burpees
  5. Mountain Climbers
  6. Push-Ups
  7. Uphill Running

Physiotherapy with James McCormack

This article is written by James McCormack, a Lower Limb Specialist who is an expert in treating Hallux Rigidus.

This is not medical advice. We recommend a consultation with a medical professional such as James McCormack if you are experiencing any of the symptoms discussed in this article. James offers Online Physiotherapy Appointments weekly and face-to-face appointments in his London clinic.

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