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How To Tape For Hallux Rigidus

We use our toes every time we stand, walk, and bend. If one of the toes has a problem or is painful, it can affect your everyday life and make daily tasks unpleasant.

Hallux rigidus—also called stiff toe—can be uncomfortable and painful whenever you move.

One of the best ways to deal with it is to tape the toe. In this article, we’ll be showing you how to tape for hallux rigidus to provide some relief from the pain and add support so the toe stays safer as you’re moving.

Let’s have a look at the best way to tape your hallux rigidus…

What Is Hallux Rigidus?

Hallux rigidus is a painful form of degenerative arthritis of the base joint—the first metatarsophalangeal joint—of the big toe. This causes the big toe joint to become stiff and inflexible.

When you have hallux rigidus, it limits your ability to perform everyday activities. You use your big toe joint constantly, as it bends every time you take a step, stand, bend over, or climb stairs.

Unfortunately, hallux rigidus is a progressive condition and the big toe will gradually lose its range of motion.

You may find that the pain and stiffness is made worse by cold weather. There may also be noticeable swelling and inflammation around the big toe joint. As the condition becomes more advanced, the toe will lose all flexibility. This is the final stage, which is known as a “frozen joint”.

You may start to experience pain even when you’re resting or have a constant dull pain in the lower back, hip, or knee. This pain is caused by the changes in the way you walk.

It can be difficult to find shoes that fit, as a bone spur or bunion can form on top of the toe joint. This bump will then rub against the inside of the shoe, which can lead to painful calluses.

While it’s unknown why hallux rigidus affects some people and not others, it’s thought that the condition could be caused by an injury to the big toe where the articular cartilage is damaged.

It may also be caused by an abnormal foot structure that places the big toe joint under excessive stress.

Can Taping Help With Hallux Rigidus?

Yes, taping your big toe joint – along with hallux rigidus exercises –  can help and it can alleviate pain.

Your big toe doesn’t share muscles, ligaments, or nerves with the rest of your toes – this is why taping your big toe is effective.

By taping your big toe joint, you’re limiting the toe’s range of motion, as well as reducing the load that’s placed on it. This will help to alleviate the pain and discomfort in the toe joint.

That being said, if you have advanced hallux rigidus—frozen joint—then taping the big toe may not be effective.

What Tape Should You Use?

Preferably you should use rigid strapping tape, like athletic tape, RockTape, or NexCare Absolute Waterproof Tape.

These taping options are flexible enough to bend around the toe while providing rigid support to limit the toe’s range of motion.

This will help to stabilize the toe joint and reduce the load on the big toe joint.

What Features of Shoes Can Help the Tape Lasts Longer?

If you’re wearing shoes with your tape, the tape won’t last as long because it will rub against the shoe when you put your foot in and take it out, as well as when you walk.

That being said, there are some things you can look for in a shoe that may help the tape to last longer on your foot.

The best shoes for hallux rigidus will have a firm heel counter and stiff outsole to support the foot and the toe.

There should be a wide toe box so that your toes can splay naturally and so that it can accommodate swelling without placing pressure on your big toe joint.

The upper should have some stretch and flexibility to allow for the natural motion of your feet. This will reduce the chance of the tape being rubbed off your foot.

Shoes and sandals for hallux rigidus that have a rocker sole—curved or scooped soles—as this will help you go from heel to toe easily, while reducing the load on your big toe.

The shoes also need to provide adequate arch support, as this will help to distribute your body weight evenly. There should also be enough shock-absorbing cushioning in the midsole, as this will help protect your toe and keep it in a neutral position.

If your shoes don’t have enough support, you can fix that by adding a hallux rigidus insole to your existing shoes.

Make sure to wear socks that help to draw moisture away from your feet, as this will prevent the adhesive from becoming damp and losing its stickiness.

Step-By-Step Guide: How to Tape For Hallux Rigidus

Hybrid Basket Weave Technique

This technique will help to stabilize the big toe joint and reduce the load that’s placed on it.

For this technique, you should use 1 ½-inch athletic tape. Measure two pieces of tape that are seven to eight inches long and then cut the tape.

Now you’re going to split the tape down the middle so that you have four strips of tape.

Take your first strip of tape and place it—the adhesive side facing the big toe—between the big toe and second toe. Wrap it around the big toe joint so that the tape meets on the outside of the big toe to make a ribbon shape, with each end leading down the side of the big toe.

Take your second strip of tape and repeat the above step so that the tape slightly covers the first strip—one half underneath— as you wrap it around the toe—making a second ribbon.

With the third strip of tape, you’re going to go back to the same spot between the toes, but instead of making a ribbon, the tape should meet slightly further down the arch of the foot.

Tear the last piece of tape in half, making it a bit smaller, and then make a tighter weave around the joint. This should wrap around the joint, almost in the same spot as the first piece of tape.

Stagger the last piece of tape and wrap it around the toe so that it forms the last ribbon.

You’ll need one last piece of tape that will be able to wrap around the entire width of your foot. Start at the base of the big toe, and wrap it around your foot so that the other end meets on top of your foot.

Spica Taping Technique

Cut a piece of athletic tape that’s eight inches long and split it in half.

Find the center of the tape and place the center on top of the big toe, just above the base joint.

Then take the end of the tape that’s on the outside of the big toe, and wrap the tape underneath the big toe, going down into the arch. The tape should run under the big toe’s bone—first metatarsal bone.

Then wrap the other end of the tape between the big toe and second toe so that it runs parallel to the first strip of tape. This should cause your big toe’s movement to be limited.

Lam, Aaron, et al. “Hallux Rigidus: How Do I Approach It?” World Journal of Orthopedics, vol. 8, no. 5, 2017, p. 364,
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5434342/, 10.5312/wjo.v8.i5.364.
Accessed 4 Nov. 2021

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