Second toe pain: Causes and how to get relief (2023)

Pain in a person’s second toe can be due to injury. However, various health conditions can also cause a person to have pain in their second toe.

A person has 28 bones in their feet, 14 of which are in the toes. The bones of the feet work together with muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments to:

  • provide support
  • help with balance
  • help a person walk

When a person has pain in their second toe, they may find walking painful or difficult. This article will look into the various causes of second toe pain, as well as treatments and when to talk with a doctor.

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A toe fracture is when a person breaks a bone in their toe. According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, toe fractures are a common injury.

Traumatic fracture

A traumatic fracture, or acute fracture, occurs due to a direct blow or impact to the area. A traumatic fracture on the second toe may be caused by dropping something heavy on it or if a person accidentally kicks something hard.

Traumatic fractures can be displaced or non-displaced. A displaced fracture means that the end of the broken bone has moved from where it should be. A non-displaced fracture means that the bone is cracked but still in alignment.

Symptoms of traumatic fracture include:

  • an audible popping or cracking noise during the injury
  • pain at the location of the fracture at the time of injury, which may last several hours and then go away
  • crooked or abnormal toe shape
  • bruising or swelling the day after the injury

A person who has experienced trauma to the foot should seek an examination from a doctor, as they may require an X-ray. Most toe fractures do not require surgery, but a small number may, particularly if there is a joint dislocation or deformity.

Sprains

A sprain is an injury that affects a ligament. A ligament is a type of connective tissue that connects two or more bones on a joint. If a person has a sprained toe, one or more of the toe ligaments have been stretched or torn. A sprain may be caused by:

  • falling
  • the toe becoming twisted
  • overextending the toe, which means it is bent or stretched beyond its normal range

Symptoms of a sprain on the second toe include:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • bruising
  • not being able to use the toe

Treatment

If a person thinks they have broken or sprained their toe, they should speak with a doctor. A doctor can recommend the most suitable treatment for their injury.

Treatments for fractures and sprains include:

(Video) Second Toe Pain TREATMENT [Capsulitis, Taping & Freiberg Disease FIX]

Fractures

  • rest
  • splinting, which is where the toe is strapped in place
  • a rigid or stiff-soled shoe
  • buddy taping, which is where the fractured toe is taped to the toe beside it
  • surgery

Sprains

  • rest
  • putting an ice pack on the area for 20 minutes 4 to 8 times a day
  • compressing the injury with bandages
  • raising the foot on a pillow
  • anti-inflammatory pain medications, such as ibuprofen

Capsulitis is a condition that that causes inflammation in the ligaments surrounding the joint at the base of a toe. These ligaments help the joint function properly.

Capsulitis can develop in the third and fourth toes, but it is most common in the second toe.

Capsulitis occurs when the ball of a person’s foot experiences excessive pressure. This may be caused by:

  • a severe bunion deformity
  • having a longer second toe than big toe
  • an unstable arch
  • a tight calf muscle

Symptoms of capsulitis can include:

  • pain, particularly in the ball of the foot
  • discomfort
  • swelling, including at the base of the second toe
  • difficulty wearing shoes
  • pain when walking barefoot

A person with capsulitis may also feel as if there is something in their shoe, such as a stone or a marble.

Treatment

Many conservative treatments can relieve capsulitis, including:

  • resting and applying ice
  • splinting or taping
  • taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • doing stretches recommended by a doctor
  • wearing supportive shoes with stiff soles
  • using orthotic devices, such as arch supports

Without treatment, capsulitis can cause the inflamed ligaments to weaken. This can lead to the second toe crossing over the top of the big toe, which is called crossover toe. Additionally, capsulitis can result in the toe becoming dislocated.

If a person develops crossover toe, they may need surgery to correct it. In cases of crossover, dislocation, and subluxation, the toes can rub against the shoes. The friction this causes may lead to corns, which may lead to breaks in the skin and infection.

Morton’s neuroma is the inflammation of the nerves between a person’s toes caused by thickened tissues surrounding the nerve. It is caused by the collapse of surrounding structures in the foot. This leads to increased traction on the nerve.

Morton’s neuroma usually occurs in the nerve between the third and fourth toes. However, Morton’s neuroma can also occur between the second and third toes.

(Video) Capsulitis (Inflammation of Second Metatarsal) -- Information, Treatment Options

Morton’s neuroma is a result of the compression or irritation of the nerve. A common cause of Morton’s neuroma is wearing shoes that have a pointed toe box. High heels that force the toes into the toe box can also lead to Morton’s neuroma.

Other causes include:

  • running or court sports
  • certain foot abnormalities
  • injury

Symptoms of Morton’s neuroma include:

  • tingling
  • pain
  • burning
  • numbness
  • a feeling of something being in the shoe
  • a feeling of something inside the ball of the foot

Treatment

Treatment for Morton’s neuroma can include:

  • arch support
  • icing the area
  • orthotic devices
  • stopping activities that put pressure on the neuroma
  • wearing shoes with a wide toe box
  • NSAIDs
  • injections of cortisone or local anesthetics
  • surgery, if resistant to other treatments

An ingrown toenail occurs when a person’s nail curves and grows into their skin. Ingrown toenails usually affect the skin at the sides of the nail. Ingrown toenails can be a result of:

  • improper trimming
  • inherited causes
  • injury
  • improperly sized shoes
  • nail problems

Ingrown toenails can cause:

  • pain
  • redness
  • swelling
  • warmth

Ingrown toenails can also lead to a person developing an infection in their toe.

Treatment

If a person has an ingrown toenail, they should see a doctor if they have:

  • infection
  • diabetes
  • nerve damage in the foot
  • poor circulation

A doctor can then treat them using antibiotics or a minor surgery.

A person without infection, or a high risk medical condition, may treat their ingrown toenail at home. Home treatment for an ingrown toenail involves soaking the toe in warm water and massaging the nail fold.

Metatarsalgia

(Video) 2nd Toe Pain Capsulitis & Ball of Foot Taping [2022 Home Treatment]

Metatarsalgia is a condition that causes pain in the ball of a person’s foot. Metatarsalgia generally affects the heads of a person’s second and third metatarsals. The metatarsals are long bones that connect a person’s toes to their ankles. The head of the metatarsals make up the ball of the foot.

Metatarsalgia may be caused by:

  • foot abnormalities
  • arthritis
  • diabetes
  • high heels
  • standing work

Treatment

Metatarsalgia can be treated by:

  • metatarsal pad insoles
  • shoe wear modification
  • physical therapy
  • injections
  • surgery

Freiberg’s disease is a rare condition that generally affects a person’s second or third metatarsal. It is caused by avascular necrosis or osteonecrosis, which is when loss of blood supply leads to bones not receiving enough nourishment.

Freiberg’s disease causes the death of bone tissue due to a lack of blood.

The exact cause of Freiberg’s disease is currently unknown. However, experts believe it is due to a combination of certain genes and environmental factors.

Symptoms of Freiberg’s disease include:

  • pain
  • stiffness
  • a limp
  • swelling
  • a limited range of motion
  • tenderness
  • the sensation of walking on something hard, such as a marble

Treatment

Treatment for Freiberg’s disease can depend on certain factors, such as a person’s age or its severity. Treatment can include:

  • rest
  • modification of activities
  • crutches, casts, or shoe inserts
  • NSAIDs
  • surgery

The plantar plate is a thick ligament that attaches the metatarsals to the first bone of the toes. Damage to the plantar plate can lead to a person developing conditions such as:

  • synovitis, which is where the connective tissue of a joint becomes swollen
  • toe displacement
  • subluxation, which is partial dislocation of a joint
  • dislocation
  • hammertoe, which is when a person’s toe curls downward with the middle joint pointing upward
  • pain
  • crossover toes
  • supination, which is where a person’s foot rolls outward when they walk

Treatment

A doctor can treat a plantar plate injury using:

(Video) How to Diagnose and Treat a Capsulitis of the Second Toe

  • casts
  • stiff-soled shoes
  • gradual weight bearing
  • rehabilitation exercises
  • surgery

Occasionally, other health issues can indirectly or directly cause second toe pain, such as:

  • Blisters. Ill-fitting footwear can cause blisters, a potential source of the pain.
  • Arthritis. This can develop throughout the body and cause second toe pain.
  • Diabetes. People with diabetes should check their feet regularly for sores and wounds, which can cause toe pain.

A person can often relieve toe pain from blisters or minor injuries by trying:

  • Rest, ice, and elevation. Wrapping an ice pack in a towel and applying it to the injury for 20 minutes at a time can help reduce swelling and pain.
  • Medication. NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
  • Orthotics. Special insoles or supports can help alleviate second toe pain. These work by correcting any imbalances in the foot.

If home treatments do not cure a person’s toe pain, they should speak with a doctor. The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons recommends a person see a doctor if they have:

  • an injury
  • reduced mobility during certain activities
  • discomfort when standing
  • an abnormal growth
  • changes in the appearance of the foot

It is important to note that people should not soak their feet in water that is too hot. People with neuropathy can develop severe burns, as they are not able to sense the heat. Soaking the feet in water that is too hot can lead to severe scalding or burning, so people should only use warm water.

Summary

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There are various conditions that can cause a person to have second toe pain. These can range from injuries to certain health conditions.

Although some causes of toe pain can be treated at home, a person should speak with a doctor if they have an injury that requires medical treatment. Toe pain that is not treated can result in a person developing further complications.

FAQs

Why is my second toe so painful? ›

The most common causes of capsulitis of the second toe are generally caused by a combination of genetic factors and overuse. Certain conditions or characteristics can also make you more prone to experiencing pressure on the ball of the foot around the second toe joint.

Does second toe capsulitis go away? ›

Fortunately, second toe capsulitis is usually treatable at home. In most cases, with a proper care routine, the swelling and pain will begin to subside in a matter of weeks.

What nerve is in the second toe? ›

The medial and lateral plantar digital nerves to the second toe, dorsal cutaneous innervation can also be used via the deep peroneal nerve. Blood supply: First dorsal metatarsal artery via the dorsalis pedis artery, or plantar digital artery via the lateral plantar artery.

What does capsulitis of the second toe feel like? ›

It can feel like there's a pebble in your shoe. Swelling in the affected area, including the base of the toe. Pain when walking barefoot. Difficulty wearing shoes.

How do I relieve pain in my second toe? ›

Treating pain in the second toe
  1. wearing properly fitting shoes.
  2. taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
  3. doing stretching exercises to relieve tight calf muscles and stiff toes.
  4. using orthotic supports to reduce pressure on the toe joints.
Nov 29, 2018

How do you fix a sore second toe? ›

Nonsurgical Treatment
  1. Rest and ice. Staying off the foot and applying ice packs help reduce the swelling and pain. ...
  2. Oral medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may help relieve the pain and inflammation.
  3. Taping/splinting. ...
  4. Stretching. ...
  5. Shoe modifications. ...
  6. Orthotic devices.

What nerve causes pain in the second toe? ›

Morton's neuroma happens when the nerve between the toe bones becomes inflamed. Symptoms of Morton's neuroma include pain between your toes and feeling like you're stepping on a pebble. Initial treatment includes medication, injections and custom orthotics. If the pain is severe, you may need Morton's neuroma surgery.

What is bursitis of the second toe? ›

What is Bursitis? Bursitis is inflammation and swelling of fluid-filled sacs called bursae. These sacs act as cushions near the joints between the bones and tendon/muscle insertion. With 33 joints in the foot, bursae can be found in a multitude of areas.

Is capsulitis the same as arthritis? ›

Adhesive capsulitis – also known as “frozen shoulder,” the connective tissue surrounding the joint becomes stiff and inflamed causing extreme pain and greatly restricting movement. Adult onset Still's disease – a form of arthritis characterized by high spiking fevers and a salmon-colored rash.

Can you get gout in 2nd toe? ›

Gout usually affects the big toe, but it can occur in any joint. Other commonly affected joints include the ankles, knees, elbows, wrists and fingers.

What does the second toe represent in reflexology? ›

The second toe contains a meridian point on the left side. This corresponds to the middle of the stomach. The fourth toe contains a meridian point on the left side that connects to the gallbladder. The little toe has a left side meridian point that links to the bladder.

Can sciatica cause pain in second toe? ›

Symptoms of Sciatica in Specific Vertebrae

When the L5 nerve root is being pinched, the pain, tingling and numbness usually extends to the big toe, ankle and top of the foot. Patients may feel pain or numbness on top of the foot, particularly on the “web” of skin between the big toe and second toe.

What are the early signs of capsulitis? ›

Capsulitis is characterized by pain in the ball of the foot, which is often compared to feeling like there is a pebble in the shoe at the ball of the foot. Other symptoms include swelling and redness in the ball of the foot, pain when walking, pain when barefoot, and discomfort in shoes.

How do you stretch your second toe? ›

Stretches for hammer toe
  1. Sit with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lift your right leg and place your ankle on your left thigh.
  3. Slowly and gently pull the bent toe down, stretching the joint. Hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Repeat 10 times on each affected toe.

What organ is the second toe connected to? ›

When it comes to toes, the second and third toe after your big toe are connected to the eyes. If you have eye strain, applying pressure in that area can help.

What home remedy can I use for toe pain? ›

Trying more than one of these recommendations may help ease your foot pain faster than just doing one at a time.
  1. Draw a foot bath. ...
  2. Do some stretches. ...
  3. Practice strengthening exercises. ...
  4. Get a foot massage. ...
  5. Buy arch supports. ...
  6. Switch your shoes. ...
  7. Ice your feet. ...
  8. Take a pain reliever.
Nov 21, 2018

How long does second toe capsulitis take to heal? ›

Healing is generally complete within 3 months. During this time special orthotics or a cast may be used to protect the bones of the foot from shifting.

What muscle controls the second toe? ›

The flexor digitorum longus muscle is responsible for the movement and curling of the second, third, fourth and fifth toes. This muscle makes it possible for the toes to grip the surface of floors, which is important when it comes to maintaining postural balance on surfaces that are rough or uneven.

What does arthritis in the second toe look like? ›

Sausage toe refers to gross swelling of the second toe so that the toe looks like a sausage. Often, it is a sign of inflammatory arthritis such as psoriatic arthritis.

Will toe pain go away? ›

Big toe pain is often the result of injury or minor underlying medical conditions. Arthritis, fractures, and gout may all cause big toe pain. Most cases of big toe pain are easily treatable with over-the-counter (OTC) remedies. However, some causes, such as sesamoiditis, may require more in-depth clinical treatment.

What does pain in toes indicate? ›

Toe pain symptoms

Common chronic causes of toe pain include bunions, toe deformities, and toenail problems. Common toe injuries include sprain and fracture. Common medical problems leading to toe pain symptoms include gout, diabetes, and arthritis. Additionally, warts, corns, or calluses can cause toe pain.

What does neuropathy pain in toes feel like? ›

Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy

numbness and tingling in the feet or hands. burning, stabbing or shooting pain in affected areas. loss of balance and co-ordination. muscle weakness, especially in the feet.

What is synovitis of second toe? ›

Overview. This condition is a sharp or aching pain in the ball of the foot that is most often centered beneath the base of the second toe. This pain is an indication that the bone at the base of the toe, called the proximal phalanx, is beginning to separate from the long bone of the foot, called the metatarsal.

What is Morton's toe syndrome? ›

Morton's neuroma involves a thickening of the tissue around one of the nerves leading to your toes. This can cause a sharp, burning pain in the ball of your foot. You may have stinging, burning or numbness in the affected toes.

What is short second toe syndrome? ›

Typically occurring in both feet, brachymetatarsia is a condition characterized by a short metatarsal. The foot has five metatarsals and this condition results in one shortened toe. If more than one of the long bones of the foot is affected, it is known as brachymetapody.

Can podiatrist treat capsulitis? ›

Capsulitis of the foot can be painful, and as result it can make walking and everyday activities uncomfortable. If you think you have capsulitis visit one of our podiatrists who will be able to help.

Can chiropractors help with capsulitis? ›

Stiffness and pain in your shoulder joint can make life difficult. This is a condition that is known as adhesive capsulitis. The good news is that chiropractic adjustments can help relieve a frozen shoulder.

Can Massage Help capsulitis? ›

An experienced massage therapist will be able to successfully treat the symptoms associated with rotator cuff issues and other shoulder injuries, but it is not the kind of treatment that will successfully cure frozen shoulder / adhesive capsulitis.

Why do I have one toe that hurts? ›

Common chronic causes of toe pain include bunions, toe deformities, and toenail problems. Common toe injuries include sprain and fracture. Common medical problems leading to toe pain symptoms include gout, diabetes, and arthritis. Additionally, warts, corns, or calluses can cause toe pain.

How do I know if my toe pain is serious? ›

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

pain in your toe is stopping you doing normal activities. the pain is getting worse or keeps coming back. the pain has not improved after treating it at home for 2 weeks.

Videos

1. Metatarsalgia: Causes & Treatment
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2. Second Toe PAIN & Plantar Plate Tear INJURY [Taping & BEST Treatment!]
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3. Second (2nd) Toe Longer than Big Toe *Home Treatment*
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4. 2nd Toe Capsulitis, Claw Toe & Hammer Toe RELIEF [Taping & Treatment]
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5. Ball of the Foot Joint Pain & Toe Capsulitis [Home Treatment Guide!]
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6. Second Toe Pain and Plantar Plate Tears | Seattle Podiatrist
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