A friend of mine recently had to have their big toe amputated because of an injury. As an avid runner, they were very concerned about how this big change would affect their lifestyle – running wise, that is.
The big toe, called a hallux, isn’t necessarily something we need for walking or running… is it? I guess I never thought so. Legs, knees, and feet are the first things to come to my mind. But, turns out, your halluces (plural for hallux) play an essential role in static and dynamic balance.
So can you run without your big toe knowing how vital a body part it is? And is there anything you need to do to help you compensate for not having a big toe?
What You'll Learn
Can You Run Without a Big Toe?
Yes, you can run without a big toe; however, your balance, arch stabilization, shock absorption, and power will be compromised. Without a big toe, the way in which you walk, jump, and run will certainly change… but there are ways you can improve your balance, adapt to an 8- or 9-toed gait, and strengthen the other muscles in your foot to walk and run as best you can.
When my friend first started walking (because you gotta walk before you run, right?) after his big toe amputation, we realized how much work a big toe actually does.
In general, your big toe:
At this point, you may be doubting my “yes” answer to can you run without a big toe. I promise you can… it just takes work and making some adjustments.
Honestly, while you can run with no big toe (and I’ve seen my big-toe-less friend run and compete in events like the Boston Marathon), your gait is affected. While your running motion will look choppier, a 9-toed gait is and can be just as effective as a 10-toed gait, even though it is a shorter gait and may be slower (especially at the start).
4 Factors to Help You Run Without a Big Toe
If you’ve lost your big toe, your heart should be elated to hear you can still walk and run.
However, there are a few things you need to do to compensate for having fewer toes, from altering your running style to practicing balance.
Here’s what you can do to help you run successfully without a big toe:
1. Buy Custom Shoes
Getting customized running shoes for a 9- or 8-toed gait will help you improve your manner of walking and running.
2. Get a Toe Filler
Instead of buying customized shoes, you can also get a hallux amputation toe filler to help you normalize your walking and running gait and improve your ambulation and standing balance. The filler also prevents your foot’s skin from rubbing against the inside of your shoe as you move. The rubbing can be painful and result in inflammation, wounds, and infections
Hallux toe filler is a partial foot prosthesis that fits into your shoe. The purpose is to fill the space of the big toe that isn’t there anymore and ensure the toe box of the shoe doesn’t collapse.
3. Do Balance Exercises
While a big toe is an important aspect of how balanced you are while standing and moving, there are also lots of other muscles in your body that keeps you balanced and upright. So if you don’t have a big toe, you need to focus on working out these other muscles so they can help compensate for the lack of a big toe.
To help you reduce your risk of being unbalanced and falling over, you can do these kinds of exercises to improve your balance (once your foot has healed and you’ve gotten the all clear from your doc!):
4. Strengthening the Other Muscles in Your Foot
While your big toe did all the work, the other muscles in your foot aren’t useless. Now that you don’t have a big toe, you simply need to strengthen these other muscles in your foot, so they can help you balance, push you off the ground, and more when you walk or run.
You can start with these exercises:
Final Thoughts on “Can You Run Without a Big Toe?”
So yes, you can absolutely run without a big toe. Will it be easy? Not at first. But most things worth going after aren’t simple to achieve.
You may probably struggle at first because your big toe is essentially an important part of how your body moves. With the right exercises to strengthen the other muscles in your foot, calves, and knees – as well as exercises to improve your balance – you’ll learn to adapt and adjust to running again.
If you aren’t a running lover just yet, but would like to get started with all of your toes, check out our pain-free guide on how to start running for beginners.