Arthritis of the big toe can present in many forms, from pain to stiffness (often called hallux rigidus). Regardless of your symptoms, any condition that affects your big toe can make it downright painful to run. That’s why, if you’ve been given the all-clear to continue to train, you will need to get yourself one of the best running running shoes for arthritis in big toe – and that is what I will help you find today.
Arthritis of the big toe calls for shoes with a few key factors, including rigidity, support, and a rocker sole. The right balance of features can help support your toe, reducing irritation and discomfort.
We’ll discuss the three best running shoes on the market for men and women suffering from big toe arthritis. In addition, we’ll answer some of the most common questions those with the condition often ask.
Hopefully, you’ll be (comfortably) back in action in no time!
Best Running Shoes for Arthritis in Big Toe
It can be tricky to find these combinations of features in running shoes. Locating a shoe with the above elements may be incredibly challenging for those with narrow feet. However, it’s not impossible. You may find that one specific feature benefits you more than the others. For example, perhaps you don’t need a roomy toe box but find relief with a stiff sole with a rocker shape.
We’ve rounded up the best running shoes to combat your toe pain and joint stiffness. They’ll allow you to train comfortably while also helping to prevent further erosion of your joint. We strongly suggest thinking about which symptoms are most irritating, pain or stiffness, and then considering which shoe features provide the most significant benefit.
MEN’s (top 3)
1. Brooks Ghost 14 Men’s Running Shoe
Brooks has been around for over 100 years. In that time, they have put out a lot of high-quality, comfortable running shoes that appeal to both the novice and advanced runner. One pair, the Brooks Ghost 14, can be particularly well suited to those with arthritis in the big toe.
Runners found the Brooks Ghost, in general, to be a very consistent, safe, and comfortable shoe that does basic at its best. This model fits the bill for runners who don’t want to go too crazy with features trying to remedy their pain. The 14, in particular, has a new outsole, midsole, and upper with an added .2 oz of weight, thanks to all that cushion.
Furthermore, the high 12mm drop of the ghost helped roll runners’ feet through turn-overs. That support eliminated the work required by their big toe when pushing off, which you know can be painful.
The outsole of the Ghost 14 has soft rubber on the front of the foot, with a firmer rubber on the heel. Runners found the soft rubber at the front better-dispersed impact when running on hard surfaces, easing the big toe pain. However, it can wear down more quickly than other, stronger rubbers.
One of the shoe’s forefoot groves contains a fair amount of rubber, making the big toe area stiffer and reducing the forefoot’s flexibility. This design can benefit big toe arthritis sufferers who may not need to turn to a brace to minimize flexing.
Finally, the wide toe box is great at letting your toes splay, reducing pinching. It’s even perfect for those with bunions, offering lots of room. Overall, this highly cushioned shoe will undoubtedly reduce pressure from impact. You can find a men’s and women’s version, each with at least sixteen different color options.
- ✅ Lots of cushioning to disperse impact shock
- ✅ A wide toe box lets toes splay
- ✅ Less-flexible forefoot area
- X Soft rubber on the forefoot outsole wears easily
- X All the cushioning can make the shoe hot in warm weather
Brooks Ghost 14 Running Shoe
For Prices & Customer Reviews
2. Altra Torin 5 Running Shoe
Altra shoes are known for their wide and roomy toe box. The brand is a better shoe for running thanks to its thoughtfully crafted “foot shape” shoes. Often, this foot shape means a wide toe box that lets runners’ feet spread out. When your feet are spread, there is less pressure on the big toe joint, resulting in decreased pain. These are the widest shoes on the list.
Runners with arthritis in their big toe found plenty of cushioning in this shoe. The midsole contains Ego Max foam, which helps absorb pounding while offering a fair amount of rebound. I was told this helped alleviate pain on impact and help to push runners through their stride without requiring a lot of work from the big toe. However, it’s important to remember that Altra’s have nearly zero-drop as part of their more natural shoe beliefs.
The rigid but bouncy midsole proved excellent for supporting arches and naturally moving runners’ feet through their stride. It also seemed to hold up better than other foam types focusing more on the cushion and less on the rebound. The 2mm Strobel board provides rigidity, too, decreasing how much your big toe bends, which can be uncomfortable.
Altra Torin’s mesh upper proved to be wonderfully breathable. It’s also thin and flexible enough to lock down well. This feature can be great for runners with big toe pain who have narrow feet but still want a wide toe box. Unfortunately, those with wider feet or high arches may find it too constricting. The sharp tongue can cause painful digging if the shoe is too tight. Despite this, the Altra Torin 6 provides an outstanding balance of stability and roominess.
Overall, it’s light and reliable with an excellent, roomy toe box. This shoe is available for men and women, each with around six different color options.
- ✅ A very wide toe box for added room
- ✅ Stiff outsole to protect against too much movement
- ✅ Ego Max foam offers a cushion with a springy rebound
- X They might be too wide for those with narrow feet
- X The tongue may be too sharp and constricting for some.
Altra Torin 5 Running Shoe
For Prices & Customer Reviews
3. Hoka Bondi 7
You’ll notice that the sole of the Bondi is super thick. Its thickness offers various advantages. The first is that it’s super plush for great cushion and comfort. Hoka uses EVA foam, and this is the most cushioned and most stacked shoe they offer. It’s more cushioned than the Brooks Ghost 14 and the Altra Torin 5 above. Hoka’s foam is medium-firm for impact absorption and also stability.
Hoka Biondi’s sole includes meta-rocker technology too. This means that the shoe’s shape naturally rolls your foot through the transition of the strike to push-off. Rolling through equals less stress and pressure on your big toe joint and, therefore, less pain.
A durable rubber outsole is suitable for most types of terrain and won’t wear down super fast. However, it isn’t as strong as some other materials. The cushion of the sole continues into the upper, with a memory foam collar and a push tongue. The Biondi is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for the best combination of cushion and stability. Men’s and women’s versions are available, each with a handful of colors.
- ✅ Extreme amount of cushioning
- ✅ Firm, inflexible midsole, which helps prevent too much toe movement
- ✅ Meta-rocker technology for a more natural foot roll
- X Midfoot and upper can be a bit too tight
- X The most expensive on the list
Hoka Bondi 7 Running Shoe
For Prices & Customer Reviews
WOMMEN’s (top 3)
1. Saucony Women’s VERSAFOAM Cohesion 12
Saucony has been around for decades since its founding in 1898. In that time, they’ve become known for their high-quality shoes and expansive selection of different models. One model, in particular, can be an excellent pick for one of the best running shoes for arthritis in bog toe for women – the Saucony Cohesion 12.
One of the stand-out characteristics of this shoe that women find delight in is the ample support. It uses VERSAFOAM, a soft and cushiony layer you can feel with every strike. The layer provides 29mm under the heel, and 17mm under the forefoot, with an excellent 12mm drop to give extra comfort to most runners. Runners find the cushion, combined with the drop, very supportive and shock absorbing for sore and swollen toe joints.
Below the cushioning and grid, they have an excellent durable rubber outsole that can help ease transitions and reduce toeing off. However, the sole of these shoes is a bit more flexible than the others on this list, according to our testers. Holding all of this together is the breathable upper, which helps keep the foot as dry as possible with minimal irritation during a run.
The Cohesion 12 is pretty supportive and does a great job locking down the heel. Some runners may find it too narrow, but those with less wide feet will appreciate the shoe’s ability to firmly hold their feet in place. The narrowness does go away somewhat in the forefoot, allowing your toes to splay out, which can combat big toe arthritis.
These shoes are a solid pair of supportive running shoes. They can be particularly well suited to beginning runners or those who want something basic and comfortable. This shoe offers men’s and women’s options in 15 different colors.
- ✅ A thick layer of supportive foam for maximum comfort
- ✅ Shock absorbing grid to avoid sudden sharp pains
- ✅ Comfortable 12mm drop to help with the transition
- X They may be too narrow for some runners
- X The outsole can lose some grip when wet
Saucony VERSAFOAM Cohesion 12
For Prices & Customer Reviews
2. ASICS Women’s GlideRide 2 Running Shoes
ASICS has been around since 1949, and right off the bat, they were known for their high-quality running gear. Today, one of their most popular materials is their gel. Used in the majority of their running shoes, the gel adds extra comfort and superior shock absorption. These characteristics are especially beneficial for women runners with big toe arthritis.
The ASICS GlideRide is a super comfortable shoe. A glance at the sole design proves that this shoe is equipped with GUIDESOLE technology. It has a rocker sole designed to absorb and disturb energy from strike to toe-off. Not only does this help preserve your legs, but it also cuts down on impact to the big toe joint.
The midsole consists of lightweight foam that is firm and supportive without being too cushy. The sheer amount of foam on the stacked sole can take some getting used to. Within the sole is a plastic guide plate. This plate gives the shoe its rocker base and helps to reduce often irritating flexion of the toe joint. The upper consists of plush yet breathable engineered mesh that adapts to your foot, creating a secure fit. It has an excellent heel lock that offers extra stability.
The bottom line? This shoe is designed for long, comfortable miles as it helps preserve energy, propel your forward, and reduce shock and flexion of the toe joint. You can find men’s ASICS GlideRide and women’s in a handful of colors.
- ✅ Rocker base helps to propel you forward and reduce the toe-off effort
- ✅ The plastic plate in the base reduces flexion
- ✅ Firm foam sole disperses impact away from toe joints.
- X The foam is firmer and not very cushy compared to others on this list
- X Not great for speed training sessions
ASICS Women’s GlideRide 2 Running Shoes
For Prices & Customer Reviews
3. Brooks Women’s Adrenaline GTS 22 Running Shoe
Support and shock absorption are a must for runners with big toe arthritis. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22 has these features plus added stability.
From the bottom up, these shoes offer excellent cushioning. The crash pad near the forefoot on the outsole is made of dense blown rubber that helps disperse energy and reduce shock – blown rubber is extra durable. The flex grooves in the sole result in some flexion of the foot, but the midsole helps to balance it.
Within the midsole foam is the GuideRail support system. It consists of two thick sections of foam running around the heel and midsole to cradle your foot. It helps to add extra stability, which can reduce the required response of the toe joint. The GuideRail system also encourages a smooth transition from strike to toe-off, lessening the work required by your big to push off.
Up top is a 3d fit print mesh that firmly holds your foot while being flexible to each runner’s unique foot. It’s comfortable, breathable, and, most importantly, wide. The wider toe box allows for toes to spread out during the run, which helps with big toe arthritis as pinching can cause pain in the joint.
In essence, this shoe is a solid and comfortable workhorse that is excellent for everyday wear when you have big toe arthritis symptoms and even when you don’t. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS is available in womens as well as mens in a variety of colors.
- ✅ Neutral shoe with bounce and support required for big toe arthritis
- ✅ GuideRails help to reduce toe-off effort and protect the joint
- ✅ The wider toe box lets toes splay freely.
- X 12mm drop can take some getting used to
- X DNALoft foam requires some breaking in to feel soft.
Brooks Women’s Adrenaline GTS 22 Running Shoe
For Prices & Customer Reviews
Buyers Guide & Key Features
How To Find the Best Shoes for Arthritis in Big Toe ..
If you’re hunting for the best running shoes for arthritis in big toe, these are the top features you’ll want to find in prospective footwear.
1. Sole Rigidity
Believe it or not, the best running shoes for arthritis in big toe are those that are relatively inflexible. Rigidity is beneficial because the inflammation caused by arthritis leads to stiffness in the joints. Joint stiffness can severely limit your range of motion. When your toe is forced to extend beyond its limits, pain occurs.
You rely on your big toe a lot during running, frequently using it to toe off when you push with each stride. A rigid-soled shoe will help prevent your toe from bending when you push off, decreasing your pain. Flexible or free-form shoes don’t stop your big toe from pronating and flexing and can be very uncomfortable.
In most cases, shoes with a rigid sole tend to be thicker. Some sufferers increase the rigidity of their soles with orthotics, but purchasing stiff shoes can keep you from relying on bulky inserts. Look for shoes that use a rigid, moderate to dense EVA foam in the sole.
2. Rocker Sole
Shoes with a rocker sole have a distinctive look. They are characterized by a thicker than standard sole with a rounded heel. Rocker soles are beneficial for big toe arthritis sufferers for a few reasons.
The first is that the thicker than usual sole helps to limit big toe movement. As mentioned above, reducing the motion of the joint can alleviate pain and further joint erosion. Rocker soles are naturally less flexible and tend to be more rigid due to their thickness.
Rocker soles have another excellent feature for runners with arthritis. They help roll your foot through push-off instead of requiring your big toe joint to flex and push. You should feel less discomfort with a faster roll from the heel to the forefoot. Additionally, rocker shoes help to redistribute pressure more evenly across the base of the foot. Most rocker soles use a compression-molded EVA that is stiff yet light.
The most common rocker shoes on the market are those produced by Hoka. However, Brooks and Asics also have a few cushioned rocker sole options that can be perfect for big toe arthritis.
3. Roomy Toe Box
Some of the best running shoes for arthritis in big toe are also those with a wide and roomy toe box. Narrow toe boxes can pinch and cause toes to overlap. Squashing of the toes may be annoying for most runners. But people with arthritis will often find it quite painful—the pain results from most of the pressure being transferred to the big toe joint.
When your toes can splay out in your shoes, this form can evenly distribute more pressure from running amongst them. Some shoes are designed with a roomy toe box, while others may require you to find a “wide” size versus their standard size. Altra shoes tend to be on the broad side, making them a possibility for those searching for a roomier toe box.
A roomy toe box can also be helpful if you’ve developed a bunion due to arthritis. The extra space in the toe box and upper can alleviate rubbing and accommodate the abnormal shape of the joint.
4. Supportive Shock Absorption
Finally, suppose you’re experiencing pain from arthritis and stiffness in your big toe. In that case, you’ll want a fair amount of support and shock absorption. These shoes will help to redistribute the pressure caused by running. Less shock and impact on your big toe joint will help alleviate pain.
Support and cushion also offer stability and comfort, making for a great run.
To effectively evenly distribute the kinetic energy produced while running, shoes are commonly made with various plush materials. Brooks likes to include gel with their DNA support, as does Asics with their Gel Cushion feature. Other brands may use pressurized air, commonly seen in Nike shoes. Still, many running shoes rely on EVA materials or foam; such is the case with Saucony and Hoka. Mizuno depends on a plastic insert called a wave plate. These materials help absorb and distribute energy with every impact, reducing the pressure placed on your irritated big toe joint.
Frequently Asked Questions
Whilst I was testing the best running shoes for arthritis in big toe, I spoke to a handful of runners who also had the same condition. I couldn’t help but make a note of the most common questions they had because I felt it would help you here today.
1. What are the signs of arthritis in the toes?
Arthritis commonly doesn’t attack the toe joints, but it can. The first sign you’ll notice is likely pain, often in the big toe and occasionally in the other toes. Stiffness is also typical and, like the pain, results from inflammation in the joints. The pain and stiffness may make it difficult to walk and be more painful first thing in the morning.
Less common signs include visible swelling, clicking or grinding noises, appearance changes, and feeling hot to the touch. Appearance changes can consist of the toe rotating away from your foot or developing thicker areas where the bone and skin naturally attempt to prevent grinding. These symptoms have to do with the joint becoming more and more inflamed. As they worsen, you may experience locked joints.
A locked joint is when the swelling and stiffness are so severe that you can no longer bend your toe. This condition may be painful. As you might imagine, all of these signs can make it challenging to walk and certainly run.
2. Can you run with big toe arthritis?
Toe issues might seem insignificant, but they can cause big problems. Your first toe carries 40-60 percent of your body weight, and if it has arthritis, you may not be able to run. Rigid toe, sometimes caused by arthritis, is called Hallux Rigidus and can impair a runner’s ability to toe (or push) off during running due to inflexibility. Running will often be painful, and your gait will be severely affected. Shoe orthotics may solve the problem.
A stiff pad may help to decrease how much the toe bends, reducing the amount of pain you experience. Running shoes with rocker bases can also be beneficial. These shoes naturally roll your foot into a push-off position without requiring the toe joint to bend.
Some runners create their own insert using a thin, but stiff board slipped under their shoe insert. Shoe adjustments and anti-inflammatory pain medications can make running more bearable.
If neither of these things works, medical intervention may be necessary in the form of corticosteroid injections or surgery.
3. How do you fix arthritis in the big toe?
Hallux Rigidus, or arthritis at the big toe’s base, can be treated conservatively or medically proactively. The first course of action is a non-surgical treatment. This includes anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the swelling and control pain, ice, and shoe changes. Adding a stiff insert, sometimes called Morton’s extensions, to limit flexing of the toe can decrease pain while walking or running. However, you may need to spend time off of your feet.
If these conservative measures don’t work, big toe issues may require medical intervention. Your doctor may recommend corticosteroid injections. These will help to lower inflammation and reduce pain in the process. However, these methods are only used to control symptoms and not fix the problem.
Surgical options can be used to treat arthritis in the big toe. One option is cheilectomy or bone spur removal. Shaving the bones around the joint often is recommended for minor arthritis. Severe cases may require arthrodesis or fusion of the toes. Further surgical options include toe replacement or the newly approved method of synthetic cartilage implant.
4. How do I protect my big toe when running?
If you are experiencing pain or stiffness in your big toe due to arthritis or joint issues, you may be looking to protect it. Pain is often the result of the joint flexing or bending. Limiting how much the toe flexes is key to protection.
First, you’ll want to assess your shoes. Shoes with a stiffer sole will prohibit joint flexion. Additionally, those with a rocker base that rolls your foot forward will allow you to push off without bending the big toe as much.
Inserts are another popular protection method. Depending on what type of pain and issue you are experiencing, you have two options. Dancer’s pads, small inserts that go on the ball of the foot and have a small cutout, relieve pain and pressure on the sesamoids or the bones under the first metatarsal.
Morton’s extension pads are another choice and are better suited to those with Hallux Rigidus. These special orthotics have a stiff to semi-stiff extension under the ball of the foot and big toe, limiting its ability to bend. You can purchase them or make your own at home using a thin but semi-stiff board. These methods can help protect your toe but may not wholly treat an issue should one arise.
5. Does exercise help arthritis in the big toe?
Exercise usually can help with arthritis in the big toe as long as it is done correctly. Joints may feel especially stiff and painful due to lack of use and movement in the morning. Stretches and exercises can help loosen them up.
This increased range of motion and strength can lead to increased joint function. A physical therapist can help determine which exercises are right for you and if exercise is the best choice or if treatment is needed.
Typical exercises include a mix of strengthening and stretching. Two sets of ten repetitions or twenty to thirty-second holds are needed to make a difference in your joint health. You should repeat these exercises four to five times a week, working your way up to eight to ten repetitions for each activity.
Toe pulls and extensions, where you support the affected foot and gently pull your toe down towards the sole of your foot or backward towards your calf, increase flexibility. Towel curls or marble pickups, where you must grasp and drag objects with the toe, build strength.