Black and white photo of feet with bunions that are highlighted in red 

Hallux Rigidus vs. Bunion

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When we talk about foot deformities, there are a few conditions that are commonly brought up. Bunions and hallux rigidus are among them – but do you know what they are exactly? Let’s talk about hallux rigidus vs. bunion, the differences in their symptoms, and treatment options. If you want to learn more about this, stay with us – this text will explain everything. 

Hallux Rigidus vs. Bunion – What’s the Difference? 

What makes bunion vs. hallux rigidus two very different conditions? While they may seem similar at first glance – they are both bumps on the big toe – they have quite a different pathology and are treated differently. Plus, a bunion is a bump on the inside of the foot, while hallux rigidus more commonly occurs on the top of the big toe or doesn’t even have to present as a bump (but rather just stiffness of the big toe). 

Unfortunately, both bunion deformity and hallux rigidus are painful conditions. They always require treatment, considering they get worse with time – the more you ignore the problem, the harder it will be to treat later. But before we talk about surgery to fix bunions and hallux rigidus, let us first explain what these conditions are exactly. 

What Is Hallux Rigidus?

When translated from Latin, hallux rigidus means stiff big toe. This condition usually develops as a result of osteoarthritis – simply speaking, osteoarthritis is an inflammation of the joint that leads to damaged cartilage. The body reacts to this by trying to protect the joint – which means that additional bone tissue is produced in this area. The bone growth is known as a bone spur. 

As the joint calcifies, it becomes more and more rigid. The toe loses its flexibility, and it can no longer be moved. When we talk about mild cases of this deformity, we also use the term “hallux limitus” – the more severe cases are referred to as hallux rigidus

There are more symptoms of hallux rigidus than just joint stiffness. The toe is painful and sometimes inflamed. However, these symptoms take years to develop – at the beginning, this can just be some mild pain when exercising or occasional tightness in the toe. Arthritis is not the only reason why this can happen – trauma to the foot (athletes or ballet dancers), some hereditary conditions, and irregular foot biomechanics can also result in hallux rigidus

What Is a Bunion?

Surgeon's hand with a glove holding a foot with a bunion

A bunion deformity is a result of an irregular alignment of the first metatarsal bone, where this bone is pointed inwards, thus resulting in a protrusion on the inside of the foot in the area of the big toe joint. Consequently, the big toe is pushed outwards and can sometimes even cross over the second toe. 

This bony bump isn’t a result of damage to the big toe joint – just changes in the positions of the bones. However, if left untreated for a long time, it can result in trauma that will, in turn, cause cartilage destruction and hallux rigidus, so these two conditions are connected in a way. 

Bunions are often a result of poor footwear choices – for example, wearing high heels for many years can result in this problem. This is why most patients with bunions are women – this condition is ten times more common in women than men. Still, sometimes the reason for a bunion occurrence is hereditary.

How to Know What Kind of Operation Is Right for You?

Whether or not your condition requires surgical treatment, you will still have to pay a visit to your doctor. After a careful examination, they will let you know if you have to be treated surgically or not. Bunions can rarely be fixed without surgery, but hallux rigidus can sometimes be managed with physical therapy and custom-made orthotics. 

What Can You Expect After Surgeries?

If you are a candidate for surgery (most likely one of the types of bunion surgery), you probably want to know what to expect after the procedure. Great news – the recovery period after minimally invasive surgery is quite short, and the success rate is about 95%. 

If You Don’t Know Which Procedure Is the Best for You, Consult With a Surgeon in Miami

If you’re confused about which foot condition you have, the best way to solve the dilemma is to reach out to an experienced and reputable surgeon in Miami, who will explain everything to you. After careful examination, your doctor can tell what kind of treatment you will benefit from. Don’t hesitate to book your free consultation at our Luxe Foot Surgery clinic – our specialists can help with your foot health. Contact us to schedule an appointment – we’re looking forward to having you as a patient. 


Can You Have a Bunion and Hallux Rigidus?

Yes, you can have a bunion and hallux rigidus at the same time. This usually happens when the bunion has progressed so much that it has led to trauma of the big toe joint, which causes arthritic changes in the joint that present as hallux rigidus

How Do I Know if I Have Hallux Rigidus?

Common symptoms that may point to hallux rigidus include pain, big toe joint stiffness, difficulty bending the toe, and increased pain when you push the foot off the ground when walking. There can also be a bump on the top of the big toe – when a person has a bunion, the bump is on the inside of the foot. 

What Is the Difference Between Bunion and Hallux Valgus?

A bunion is a deformity that forms as a result of an irregular alignment of the first metatarsal bone, where the bone is pointed inwards and makes a protrusion on the inside of the foot. Hallux valgus is the same condition – this term is a medically correct way to describe it. 

How Can You Tell the Difference Between a Bunion and Arthritis?

Arthritis of the big toe joint doesn’t necessarily cause a bump on the inside of the foot – the bump can be on top of the big toe or absent altogether. On the other hand, a bunion is always a bump on the inside of the foot. To make a distinction between these two, your doctor can order an X-ray, which will definitely tell the difference.


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