The great toe joint is a crucial joint for normal function and to be able to walk. As we are walking and the foot is flat on the ground, this big toe or hallux joint needs to flex as the heel comes off the floor. If that joint fails to flex then running or walking will likely be much more challenging. More energy is needed so running or walking gets very fatiguing. As the motion which is not able to happen with the big toe joint still will need to occur, other joints are often made to move a lot more at a time that they're not supposed to be moving. This abnormal movement may become a problem.
There are a number of issues that could go wrong with that big toe or hallux joint and interfere with this normal motion. Among the more prevalent issues is a condition that often will get called hallux rigidus and as this name implies, the hallux joint is inflexible and doesn't move. The most frequent reason behind this is osteoarthritis in that big toe joint. This certainly could be very painful and the rigid joint tends to make walking or running very hard. The most frequent treating of this are drug treatments to decrease your pain, rocker sole footwear to allow for some movement to take place along with surgery about the big toe joint.
A less painful form of hallux rigidus is a condition known as hallux limitus where the big toe joint isn't stiff but has a diminished range of flexibility. As a full range of motion is required at the great toe or hallux joint for normal function, this limited motion continues to be an issue. The most frequent cause of this problem is also osteoarthritis. Usually the handling of hallux limitus is relief of pain with drugs, at times taping can be used to restrict movement even more so that it's not too painful. Foot orthotics are occasionally used to encourage a more normal motion from the joint. With the most painful situations surgery could be an option where a joint implant could be done or the great toe joint is operatively fused to stop it moving.
A different very common condition is what is referred to as a functional hallux limitus. This is called functional since in a non-weightbearing assessment the great toe joint has got a normal range of motion, but when functioning with the foot on the floor it just does not have the full range of flexion. The reason behind a functional hallux limitus is just not known and the reason why that great toe joint does not work during weightbearing is just not apparent. The restriction simply seems to occurs in some people. Numerous theories have already been advanced, most of which appear plausible however, there is hardly any direct data for one over the another theory.
There are a variety of treatments for a functional hallux limitus that are directed at restoring normal function to the joint. Podiatric doctors typically use foot orthoses with different adjustments such as a first ray cut out, some sort of Kinetic Wedge or a Cluffy Wedge. All of these orthotic modifications try to improve the movement at the big toe joint to make the joint function more effectively and prevent the functional hallux limitus from happening.