Causes of Pain in the Toes

In addition to the irritation and discomfort that it causes, toe pain can make it difficult to walk and move around. Because of this, chronic toe pain may interfere with daily life. Most minor pain in the toes is a result of standing too long, poor-fitting shoes or injuries, but occasionally toe pain can occur as a result of abnormalities in the structure of the toe or due to autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis.

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When the big toe points inward toward the second toe, it is referred to as a bunion. Bunions can form as a result of abnormal bones in the foot that are present at birth or the frequent use of tight or high-heeled shoes. Symptoms of a bunion include red, calloused skin on the inside of the toe and a bump that forms due to extra pain. Pain also occurs in the toes and at the joint and is aggravated by wearing shoes. In the case of a mild bunion, a patient usually can treat the condition by wearing wide shoes, foam inserts and spacers that separate the big toe from the second toe. If the bunion has progressed significantly and causes severe pain or a deformity, surgery may correct the condition. MedlinePlus explains that the surgery consists of removing the bony bump and realigning the toe 1.


Uric acid forms when the body breaks down purines, which are substances found naturally in the body as well as in certain foods, such as:

  • organ meats
  • anchovies
  • mushrooms
  • according to the Mayo Clinic 2

In a healthy person, uric acid dissolves in the blood and leaves the body in the urine. In those with gout, uric acid does not dissolve; as a result, substances called urate crystals accumulate in the joints. Gout usually affects the joint of the big toe, but also can occur in the feet, ankles, wrists and knees. Symptoms of gout include intense pain, especially in the big toe, tenderness, redness and discomfort. Treatment for gout consists of anti-inflammatory medications, medications that block the production of uric acid and pain relievers.

Morton's Neuroma

Morton’s neuroma is a condition characterized by the thickening of the skin that surrounds the nerve that travels into the toes. The thickening usually occurs between the third and fourth toes as a result of excess pressure, injury or chronic irritation, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons notes 3. The main symptom of Morton’s neuroma is a burning pain that originates in the ball of the foot and spreads to the toes. Numbness or an unpleasant feeling in the toes also may accompany radiating pain. Treatment for Morton’s neuroma consists of a combination of wearing loose shoes, shoe inserts and pads and injections of anti-inflammatory medications directly into the foot and toes.