For a period of time, my great toe was a constant source of pain, snapping, and stiffness. It wasn’t until about a year and a half after the discomfort began that it started interfering with my running routine. Initially, I tried to manage it through self-massage and stretching, but those efforts didn’t bring much relief. The real breakthrough came when I adopted two specific strategies that have since transformed my experience: taking a strategic break from running and incorporating rocker soled shoes with carbon fiber inserts into my daily footwear.

The Turning Point: A Break from Running

The first significant step I took was to give my toe a rest. I stopped running for a full month, which was tough as running is my go-to for staying active and clearing my mind. This hiatus reduced the toe pain as it gave my toe a break from the constant pounding and stress from running. I also avoided exercises that caused the toe to extend back such as lunges and planks.

Gradual Return with Rocker Soled Shoes and Carbon Fiber Inserts

After the month-long break, I didn’t just jump back into my usual routine. Instead, I made a gradual return to running over the next month, this time with two crucial additions: rocker soled shoes and carbon fiber inserts.

Rocker Soled Shoes:

Rocker soled shoes are designed with a thick, curved sole that promotes a rolling motion as you walk or run. This design limits the need for the toes to extend, thereby reducing the stress on the joints. For someone dealing with conditions like hallux rigidus or hallux limitus, where the big toe becomes stiff and painful, these shoes can make a significant difference.

Here are some examples of rocker shoes:



New Balance

Carbon Fiber Inserts:

Carbon fiber inserts are stiff, lightweight orthotic devices that provide additional support and limit the range of motion of the big toe. By restricting the toe’s movement, these inserts help to minimize the stress and strain that contribute to pain and snapping. When used in conjunction with rocker soled shoes, carbon fiber inserts can enhance the overall stability and support, allowing for a more comfortable running experience. These inserts have been also great at reducing toe pain with wearing other shoes as well, like my work shoes that are a bit more formal than running shoes. The inserts can easily be taken in and out of any of my shoes that have an insole, so are totally interchangeable, which I really like.

The Results

Combining these two tools allowed me to run again without the problems I had previously experienced. The rocker soled shoes and carbon fiber inserts provided the support and relief that self-massage and stretching alone could not achieve. Over time, my toe pain and snapping has reduced significantly.

Moving Forward: Stretching and Professional Support

Now that my toe is less irritated, I’ve started to incorporate gentle stretching to help restore and maintain the joint’s flexibility. Stretching, when done carefully, can enhance the range of motion and prevent further stiffness.

For anyone dealing with similar issues, I highly recommend seeking the guidance of an orthotist like I did to find the right footwear and inserts. Additionally, working with a physiotherapist can ensure that the flexibility and strength of your great toe and foot are being maximized. These professionals can tailor a plan to meet your specific needs and help you stay active without pain.

These two strategies have been game changers for me, allowing me to continue enjoying my recreational pursuits. If you have any questions or need personalized advice, feel free to book an Initial Assessment with one of our team physiotherapists at North 49. They can work with you to assess your foot pain and develop an individualized plan to get you Moving Better & Living Better!

Stay active,