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Best Running Shoes for Hallux Rigidus in 2022

 

Hallux rigidus—also called stiff big toe—can harm your running. The big toe helps keep your balance and gives you some power during your push-off.

But when the toe becomes stiff and painful, your balance and running power can be compromised.

But don’t worry—the best running shoes for hallux rigidus are designed to offer support and protection right where you need them so that a sore, stiff big toe won’t stop you from running.

We recommend the Hoka Bondi 8 for our top pick. It features a stiff sole, excellent cushioning, and a meta-rocker to help you move forward smoothly and comfortably.

Here’s the list of shoes you should consider if you’re wondering how to run safely with hallux rigidus.

Top 3 Best and Favorites

 

Hoka Bondi 8

 

  • Medium-density EVA midsole foam
  • Meta-rocker geometry
  • Deep heel cup
CHECK MEN’S PRICECHECK WOMEN’S PRICE

 

Brooks Launch 9 GTS

 

  • Mild rocker design
  • GuideRails System
  • BioMoGo DNA foam
CHECK MEN’S PRICECHECK WOMEN’S PRICE

 

ASICS Gel-Kayano 29

 

  • Built-in Litetruss technology
  • External heel counter
  • 3D Space Construction
CHECK MEN’S PRICECHECK WOMEN’S PRICE

Best Overall

1. Hoka Bondi 8

The Bondi 8 has good foot lockdown, a stable ride, and a durable outsole. Its meta rocker geometry helps make transitions feel efficient, and the shoe has plenty of stability features.

What We Like

The Bondi 8 is known to be Hoka’s most cushioned shoe, and its thick layer of padding creates stiffness in the shoe that’s helpful for hallux rigidus.

As the shoe can’t twist or flex, there’s much less chance for your foot to flex, which means your toes won’t need to do any emergency gripping.

A thick layer of plush cushioning also helps absorb shock, stopping the affected toe from being aggravated by vibration every time you take a step.

The EVA midsole foam provides support and stability under the arch. A deep heel cup with a heel counter helps to provide extra security.

Another excellent feature is the rocker sole. It works with a beveled heel to ensure that you move from heel to toe as fast as possible during your stride, with as little muscle involvement from the toes as possible.

As for the toe box, there’s plenty of space for the toes to move around comfortably without being cramped.

You’ll also get a plush upper that locks the foot down effectively, light but carefully-placed rubber on the outsole, and the option to choose wide or extra-wide sizes if necessary.

Why We Like It

The Hoka Bondi 8 is a maximum cushioned shoe that offers a stiff midsole and rocker design that helps to protect a stiff big toe. It’s also supportive and extremely comfortable.

What to Consider

The Bondi 8 may be a maximum cushioned shoe, but all that cushion makes it heavy on the feet. Some may find the shoe to be bulky and that it causes them to feel weighed down while running.

In cold weather, the midsole of the Bondi can stiffen up. The EVA midsole is firm to begin with, so this can be a downer for some people.

What’s New

The changes to the Bondi 8 include a new, lighter foam. This helps the shoe be even more plush while weighing even less. An elongated heel will help soften the ride for heel strikers. And a softer tongue makes the shoe that much more comfortable.

PROS:

  • Medium-density EVA midsole foam provides a firm, stable, and comfortable ride
  • Meta-rocker geometry provides smooth heel-to-toe transitions
  • The deep heel cup and memory foam collar securely hold your foot
  • Available in wide and extra-wide options

CONS:

  • The shoe is somewhat heavy and may feel bulky
  • The midsole may stiffen up in the cold
 

Top Value

2. Brooks Launch 9 GTS

The Brooks Launch GTS 9 is a light, unobtrusive, stable shoe that neutral runners can wear. It offers mild support features for hallux rigidus and excellent value for money.

What We Like

This shoe offers mildly supportive features that come into play when necessary but don’t restrict the foot when not required.

The GuideRails System supports the rearfoot medially and laterally, keeping the heel in place so it can benefit from the stiff sole and excellent cushioning.

BioMoGo DNA foam offers soft shock absorption, alleviating pain and jarring in the affected toe. At the same time, it has some energy return, which along with the mild rocker shape, allows you to push off faster without needing the big toe to help.

The sole is actually quite stiff on this shoe. That’s a sought-after feature for hallux rigidus, as it will help keep the toe safe and free from sudden twisting or gripping that occurs with a flexible sole.

As well as stability features, this shoe has a naturally wide base. That’s excellent for security, stopping any chance of the foot rolling, which could tweak the big toe.

Those who care about the environment will be pleased to know that the outsole is eco-friendly, being made from sand-based rubber rather than petroleum.

Why We Like It

The Brooks Launch GTS 9 is an affordable and easy-to-wear shoe for hallux rigidus. It has discreet features to protect the toe and ease pressure on the forefoot.

What to Consider

The Launch GTS 9 comes with a non-gusseted tongue that won’t be a deal-breaker for everyone, but you may find that it becomes an annoyance as the tongue moves while you’re running.

What’s New

The 9 is just a few grams lighter thanks to a redesigned upper, although it does feature 2mm more foam in the midsole for extra cushion.

The 9’s sole is stiffer than the 8’s, which is good news for those with hallux rigidus. Lastly, the outsole is made of eco-friendly rubber this time around.

PROS:

  • Mild rocker design takes some pressure off the forefoot
  • GuideRails System provides light stability and support
  • BioMoGo DNA foam in the midsole absorbs shock and vibration
  • A stiff, inflexible sole offers extra support for the affected toe

CONS:

  • The non-gusseted tongue may be annoying for some
 

Best Heel Support

3. ASICS Gel-Kayano 29

The Gel-Kayano 29 is the very newest of the Kayanos. It’s a light stability shoe with exceptional heel support, keeping your painful toe safe.

What We Like

The Gel-Kayano 29 is a superb choice if you need a stable heel. It features an external heel counter to lock your heel in, so it won’t move or aggravate any part of your foot.

This keeps your foot very safe, and you should have little chance of damaging your big toe further.

Thanks to the Litetruss technology in the sole, the shoe is fairly stiff and won’t bend much under your toes.

You’ll get excellent shock absorption with FF Blast Plus cushioning, gel in both the heel and the forefoot for comfort, and 3D Space Construction which offers light support where it’s needed.

Why We Like It

The ASICS Gel-Kayano 29 is the newest version of a much-loved shoe. It offers excellent cushioning and heel support to lock the foot in place, protecting the aching big toe as much as possible.

What to Consider

This shoe has been around for less than a month at the time of writing this review. While it’s exciting, there’s very little information out at the moment about possible cons.

What’s New

The 29 is about 10 grams lighter than the 28. The midsole has also been updated from Flytefoam Blast to FF Blast Plus.

PROS:

  • Built-in Litetruss technology to stabilize the foot and keep the forefoot safe
  • External heel counter to support and hold the foot in place
  • FF Blast Plus and front and back gel cushioning for extra shock absorption
  • 3D Space Construction offers levels of compression

CONS:

  • The shoe is extremely new, so there’s less information about possible cons
 

Top Support Shoe

4. Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22

The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22 uses a light, subtle GuideRails system to provide stiffness and support. It’s great for overpronators.

What We Like

Overpronators will appreciate the strong yet forgiving support that the Adrenaline GTS 22 offers, thanks to its GuideRails System.

The guide rails only kick in when they’re needed. Otherwise, they simply help to hold the heel in position unobtrusively.

DNA Loft foam in the midsole provides good arch support and also absorbs the shock of impact as you land. It’s a little firmer, but that’s handy for those with hallux rigidus as it works with the stiff sole to prevent twisting and rolling of the foot.

One of the features that are very helpful for hallux rigidus is the spacious toe box; your toes can splay in a natural way and stay pain-free.

A very mild rocker sole also adds a bit more smoothness to your heel-to-toe transition, reducing the role of your toe in the push-off.

Why We Like It

The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22 is a strong yet subtle support system for those who overpronate. It also provides great features for those who need support for hallux rigidus.

What to Consider

If you wore the Adrenaline GTS 21, you might expect a soft midsole; however, this shoe is quite stiff. That’s great for those with hallux rigidus but can be a letdown for those who loved the feel of the previous version.

What’s New

Small but significant changes have been made to the 22. The midsole now consists of only DNA LOFT foam, which has caused the shoe to lose some weight.

PROS:

  • Subtle support features keep you comfortable and supported at the same time
  • DNA Loft midsole cushioning reduces shock and keeps pain away
  • Stable heel locks your foot in properly to keep you in position
  • Wide, molded toe box allows room for your toes to splay

CONS:

  • Some may be surprised to find that the shoe is quite a bit stiffer than the last version
 

Best Motion Control

5. New Balance 1540v3

For those who need a bit more stability while still keeping that toe safe, the New Balance 1540v3 is a great choice.

What We Like

This stability shoe is designed to stop the foot from moving out of position and aggravating the muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

It helps to protect a stiff big toe by keeping the foot safely in one position and removing the need for the toe to be involved in the running process.

A Rollbar stability system provides protection against rolling but also creates an inherent stiffness in the shoe; this helps to stop twisting and keep the foot safe.

Two different types of midsole cushioning help to mitigate the vibrations that run through the shoe every time you take a step that could hurt the toe.

If there’s not enough support for you, the insole is removable and can be replaced with one that gives you the cushioning and support you need under the arch.

Why We Like It

The Rollbar system on this shoe provides spectacular support and also makes the shoe fairly stiff. The naturally wide fit of New Balance allows plenty of room on the forefoot.

What to Consider

A common complaint about this shoe is that the tongue is a little too short. This can be aggravating, and depending on how you like to lace your shoes, it may impact the lockdown you can get on your feet.

It’s also quite heavy, weighing in at over a pound per shoe. This is likely to be a result of the substantial Rollbar stability system.

What’s New

The midsole and Rollbar system have both received slight updates. So has the overlays across the upper, which are now featured more prominently on both sides.

PROS:

  • Dual midsole cushioning helps to alleviate shock and protect the toe
  • Rollbar midsole technology keeps the foot from rolling or twisting
  • Removable insoles allow you to add custom cushioning
  • A plush ankle collar locks your foot into place

CONS:

  • The tongue of this shoe is shorter than usual, which could be annoying
  • The shoe is heavy
 

Top for Orthotics

6. Saucony Echelon 8

The Saucony Echelon 8 offers plenty of room on the forefoot, giving your toe space. One of the best things about this shoe is that you can add your own insert if what’s inside isn’t enough for you.

What We Like

Insoles can be helpful for those with hallux rigidus, especially if they need to keep their feet aligned to reduce pain and improve their range of motion.

The Saucony Echelon 8 is the ideal shoe to buy in this case. Not only does it have a removable insole that can easily make way for your own, but it’s also double-depth, offering plenty of room in the forefoot for the toes to be free.

It has a naturally wide fit and broad base, which makes it stable and stiff. There’s PWRRUN foam in the midsole, providing some shock absorption, and a feature we like a lot is the substantial toe bumper around the front of the upper, which protects the sore toe effectively from bumps.

Why We Like It

The Echelon’s spacious forefoot fit, extra depth, toe protection, and orthotic-friendly design make it a great choice for those who have hallux rigidus and already use custom orthotics.

What to Consider

The Echelon is a naturally wide shoe. Runners with narrow feet may not be able to get a good fit with this shoe, even with a great lockdown on their feet.

What’s New

The Echelon 8 has 2mm more foam in the midsole, which results in almost an ounce of weight gain over its predecessor.

PROS:

  • A roomy toe box with extra depth accommodates orthotic insoles
  • A wide, stable base adds stiffness and reduces the chance of twisting
  • PWRRUN foam underfoot offers impact absorption and comfort
  • The toe bumper adds protection around the painful toe

CONS:

  • Runners with narrow feet may find that this shoe doesn’t fit them well
 

Top Cushioned Support

7. Hoka Gaviota 4

The Gaviota 4 is a stability shoe that offers more than the usual cushioning. If you need shock absorption, this is a good choice.

What We Like

There’s no need to sacrifice cushioning for stability. The Gaviota 4 has both a dense J-Frame on the medial side of the shoe for a secure step and a large amount of plush padding underfoot.

While this creates a luxurious feeling, the shoe is stiffer than you may expect. Even the vegan upper is padded and plush, which helps to create a solid lockdown by molding to the foot for structural support.

A late-stage meta-rocker in the outsole helps you to move through the heel-to-toe transition effortlessly and with little to no pain as your toe is disengaged from the movement.

Why We Like It

The Hoka Gaviota 4 features plush cushioning and excellent stability, both of which increase the stiffness of the shoe. Its other features all work together to protect your painful toe.

What to Consider

The tongue is only partially-gusseted, leaving it free on one side. This can lead to it bunching up when you run, potentially causing hotspots and chafing.

Surprisingly, the Gaviota 4’s toe box is also a little on the narrow side. Double-check the fit before you choose this shoe!

What’s New

There are minor changes to the upper to get a better fit and a better lockdown. Aside from that, everything has remained the same.

PROS:

  • Vegan, mesh upper provides a secure fit by hugging your foot
  • The thick layer of cushioning absorbs shock and offers stiffness
  • J-Frame provides good support and keeps the foot from rolling
  • Late-stage Meta-Rocker helps you to move through the heel-to-toe transition easily and pain-free

CONS:

  • The semi-gusseted tongue could lead to bunching or chafing
  • The toe box is a little narrower than expected
 

Best Rocker Sole

8. Gravity Defyer XLR8

A rocker sole can be invaluable for those with hallux rigidus, as it helps your foot to move through the natural heel-to-toe progression without the help of the big toe. This shoe is our top pick for the best rocker sole.

What We Like

The Gravity Defyer XLR8 has a rockered sole back and front, which reduces strain on the toe during the toe-off. This reduces pain and stiffness, especially if you walk or run often.

Although the sole is rockered, it’s still quite stiff and inflexible. There’s a TPU shank in the midsole to help you keep your balance even, while the rocker sole helps you to move faster and more efficiently.

Multi-density VersoCloud cushioning in the midsole provides some shock absorption, although the rocker sole also helps to distribute body weight differently, which lowers shock.

You’ll get Corrective Fit orthotics with these shoes, but they’re also removable if you want to add your own pair for better support.

Why We Like It

This shoe’s rocker sole helps reduce strain on the big toe by removing it from the equation of pushing off when running.

What to Consider

This shoe has a thin tongue in comparison to others. While this may help you to get a great lockdown on your feet, it could leave you open to lace bites as the top of your foot isn’t protected or padded.

PROS:

  • Front-rolling design in the sole facilitate easy heel-to-toe movement
  • TPU full-perimeter shank offers extra stability during running or walking
  • Multi-density VersoCloud cushioning reduces shock
  • Corrective Fit insoles are removable

CONS:

  • The tongue of this shoe is thin and may lead to a lace bite
 

Top Orthopedic and Walking Shoe

9. Orthofeet Sprint (men’s)

10. Orthofeet Coral (women’s)

These two shoes are very similar; they’re designed to alleviate pain and discomfort from foot conditions, so you can expect them to help your hallux rigidus.

What We Like

These are orthopedic shoes that look like athletic shoes. Their soft, stretchy mesh uppers contour to the foot and work well with the laces to lock down on your foot.

Underfoot, you can get great support by making use of the spacers. While the footbed is contoured and provides anatomical arch support—which you can improve with an arch booster—you can remove the two spacers to make the toe box deeper.

This will allow you to have plenty of room for your toes if you need more space. The toe box is already wide.

A mild rocker shape helps to reduce strain on the affected toe, as it doesn’t need to strain itself to push off from the ground.

Why We Like It

These shoes are designed specifically to reduce foot pain. They provide excellent support and cushioning. The removable spacers are also a bonus, so you can customize the space in the shoe.

What to Consider

These shoes are a little bulky, and some people may feel uncomfortable wearing them. They may also feel a little heavy.

PROS:

  • Stretchable upper contours to the foot for a good lockdown
  • Anatomical arch support with optional arch booster
  • A wide, comfortably-shaped toe box allows your toes to be free
  • Mild rocker design reduces foot fatigue

CONS:

  • These shoes are a little bulky and may be heavy on the feet
 

Buyer’s Guide – Running Shoes for hallux rigidus

Stability and Stiffness

A stiff sole is essential for preventing movement of the big toe.

Most of the time, a stiff sole will be found on a stability shoe, but be careful as using a stability shoe when you don’t need one—when you have a neutral or supinating foot—can be uncomfortable and lead to worse pain.

Rocker Sole

A rocker sole will help you to move quickly from heel to toe without actually bending the toe to help you push off; the natural rocker shape makes the transition quick and painless.

Cushioning

Good cushioning will help to reduce vibrations that can hurt the big toe as you step. It adds to the comfort and safety of the shoe.

Uppers

The upper of the shoe should be soft and flexible, moving with your foot as you walk or run. It should not restrict your movement but allow for a snug, comfortable fit.

Insoles

Choose a shoe with removable insoles; this will allow you to remove them and add your own if the one inside the shoe doesn’t offer enough support.

Fit

Your toes should not be touching the front of your shoe or the sides as you walk. There should be enough room in the toe box for your toes to splay and move naturally, without chafing or being cramped.

FAQs

Are Zero Drop Shoes Good for hallux rigidus Conditions?

You should avoid zero-drop shoes if you have hallux rigidus. In zero-drop shoes, your toes bend more to compensate for the lack of support, which can aggravate the pain, limit motion, and reduce the chance of healing.

Can Shoe Inserts Help in Relieving hallux rigidus Pain?

Choosing the right insert can help relieve the pain of hallux rigidus by reducing the movement of the big toe.

You should choose stiff, immovable inserts—like a carbon fiber insert—that won’t bend as you walk or run.

Can You Run With hallux rigidus?

Hallux rigidus doesn’t have to ruin your running. If you take precautions and ensure your toe is protected, you can continue running with minimal pain and discomfort.

You should get shoes with a roomy toe box so that your toe can rest naturally without being cramped. Your shoes should also support your arch, so your body weight is evenly distributed.

However, if you have pain while running, you should take a break and reassess. Make sure that your foot is well-supported and protected.

How Do I Protect My Big Toe When Running?

To protect your big toe when you’re on a run, ensure you’re wearing the right shoes with a spacious toe box and lace them to avoid extra pressure on the toes.

You should also ensure to keep your toenails trimmed, preventing you from getting black toenails or hurting your stiff toe.

Ben Drew

Ben Drew

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.

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