Exercises To Treat Sesamoiditis

Foot conditions can affect your life in a negative way, especially if they cause you pain or discomfort while doing everyday tasks or errands.

If you suffer from pain in the big toe joint, you may consider it to be metatarsalgia or capsulitis of the second toe. But if it’s specific to the sesamoid bones—in the big toe’s tendon—it’s possible that you’re suffering from sesamoiditis instead.

We’ve covered four exercises to treat sesamoiditis from home. It’s always best to get the opinion of your podiatrist so you can be sure that these exercises are targeting the right area.

But they’re great for strengthening and stretching the tendon and could help to relieve your pain.

Let’s have a look at sesamoiditis and effective exercises.

What Is Sesamoiditis?

Sesamoiditis is a painful foot condition that’s caused by irritated and inflamed tendons around the sesamoid bones.

Sesamoids are small bones—about the size of a pea—that are embedded in the tendons that control the big toe. The sesamoid bones are beneath the big toe joint on the underside of your foot.

The sesamoid bones help to move and raise the big toe when you’re walking or running. These bones also help to reduce the strain on the foot during movement, redistribute and absorb weight-bearing forces, and protect the short toe flexor.

They also help to increase the power of the short toe flexor and reduce friction during activities like walking.

With that being said, the repetitive motion of walking or running can cause the tendons to become irritated and inflamed. You’ll then notice an achiness in the ball of the foot that can progress to a throbbing or severe pain in the forefoot.

Sesamoiditis develops over time, and it usually starts out as a dull pain that occurs on the bottom of the ball of the foot.

The pain gets worse with time, and as it becomes more severe you may find that you can’t place any weight on the big toe. You might even find it difficult to walk, bend your toe upwards, or straighten your toe.

You may find that the pain comes and goes and that the area around the big toe joint may be swollen. There may also be redness or bruising around the joint of the big toe.

As you get older, the fatty pad in the forefoot and heel start to get thinner—fat pad atrophy. This can increase your risk of developing sesamoiditis, as the sensitive connective tissue and joints are exposed to pressure and strain. It’s advised to wear fat pad atrophy inserts.

If you have high arches, you’re also at high risk for developing sesamoiditis because of the pressure that’s placed on the structure of the foot.

A medical condition like osteoarthritis would also increase your risk of developing sesamoiditis. This is due to weakened bones, which can lead to inflammation in various parts of the foot.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Sesamoiditis?

There are a few things that can influence your recovery time, such as the severity of the sesamoiditis, your activity level, any existing health conditions, and your age.

If you have a severe case—a sesamoid fracture or broken sesamoid bone—then it could take between 6 and 8 weeks to fully heal. During this time, your foot would need to be protected and you wouldn’t be able to put any weight on the foot.

In mild cases of sesamoiditis, it can take a few days or it can take up to 3 weeks for it to heal properly.

The best way to treat sesamoiditis conservatively is to use the RICE principle:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation

You should avoid doing your regular exercise and vigorous activity, like running, while healing from sesamoiditis.

To alleviate pain and reduce inflammation, you can use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen—Motrin—Nuprin, Advil—naproxen—Aleve, or Naprosyn.

You could also try insoles for sesamoiditis to help with pain or a good pair of shoes for sesamoiditis. Some people find sesamoiditis pads can help.

If left untreated, sesamoiditis will get worse. This will also extend the amount of time that it takes to heal the sesamoid bones.

Exercise Recommendations

One of the best ways to treat and prevent sesamoiditis is to do foot strength and stretching exercises. KT taping is also useful.

These exercises can strengthen your foot and improve your foot’s mobility, which can help reduce the pressure on your sesamoid bones. This can help to treat and prevent sesamoiditis in the future.

1. Range Of Motion (in case of inflammation and pain)

This exercise can help to restore the range of motion in the big toe, which can be limited after inflammation.

Start by sitting in a chair, and extend the leg with the affected foot.

Using only your toe muscles, curl your big toe downwards towards the ground. Then raise your big toe like you’re pulling the toe back towards you.

Try not to move the whole foot when doing this exercise, but just the muscles of the toe.

Repeat this exercise 10 to 20 times on each toe.

2. Foot Raises (only when pain and inflammation-free)

Only do this exercise once the inflammation and pain have subsided completely.

This exercise works to strengthen the soft tissue around the sesamoid bones.

Make sure that you’re holding onto a sturdy chair or surface for balance when you first start doing this exercise.

While standing upright, start to raise yourself up on your toes. Once both your heels are off the ground, hold the position for 2 to 5 seconds. Then gently lower yourself back to the ground.

Repeat the movement 10 to 20 times.

As your toes develop strength, do the movement with one foot at a time and then alternate legs.

3. Towel Pick-Up

This exercise will help to strengthen and restore movement in the big toe.

For this exercise, you’re going to need a towel and it’s best to start with one that’s quite lightweight. You can choose to do this exercise sitting down or standing.

Place the towel on the floor and then use your toes to pick the towel up.

Repeat this movement 10 to 20 times on each foot.

4. Foot Mobilization

For this exercise, you’ll need either a tennis ball or a yoga tune-up ball.

You can stand or sit for this exercise, depending on how much pressure you want to apply.

Start by rolling the ball from your forefoot—beneath your big toe—to the middle of your foot, then back to your forefoot. Do this continuously for 20 to 30 seconds.

Then, roll your foot from side to side over the ball, starting in the forefoot and then to the middle of your foot. Do this continuously for 20 to 30 seconds and then alternate feet.

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “Sesamoiditis – OrthoInfo – AAOS.” Aaos.org, 2012,
Accessed 1 Oct. 2021

Cohen, Bruce E. “Hallux Sesamoid Disorders.” Foot and Ankle Clinics, vol. 14, no. 1, Mar. 2009, pp. 91–104,
www.pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19232995/, 10.1016/j.fcl.2008.11.003
Accessed 1 Oct. 2021

The Center For Morton’s Neuroma. “Fat Pad Atrophy of the Foot | the Center for Morton’s Neuroma.” Www.mortonsneuroma.com,
Accessed 1 Oct. 2021