Would You Be Able To Run Without Your Big Toe?

When considering the importance of our body parts, one will often rank our eyes, ears, maybe even hands… but the big toe? This often-overlooked appendage, though, is arguably quite important. So, let’s dive in and see whether being without it will cause you to be able to run or not. 

It is possible to run without a big toe. However, according to physiatrists, not having a big toe will be difficult and requires training to learn how to compensate.

Many people, who have lost a big toe, may be concerned that they will not be able to walk properly again, let alone run. However, now that we know there is hope for those of us, who have lost their big toe(s) due to amputation or otherwise, we can jump into the need-to-know facts of how to work around it.   

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How Important Is Your Big Toe For Running?

When we think of our toes we may wonder what their purpose is, how important they are, why we even have them, and if we could live without them. It turns out your big toes are vital components and are a very practical part of our anatomy. Your toes aid in balancing, provide support, and help to bear the weight of your body when you both run and walk; your big toe tends to carry the brunt of the work – twice as much, in fact, than the others combined.

Shock Absorption and Power

When you run, you need shock absorption when your feet touch the ground and when you propel yourself forward. After the shock absorption, you need power to launch. The big toe carries the most responsibility for both shock absorption and for power. The other toes tend to act more as helpers, and although also important, do not contribute as much towards the workload. (source)

This Youtube video helps to explain the importance of the big toe as well as big toe extension when it comes to running:

Big Toe Extension and Running Mechanics | RunSmart Online

Arch Stabilization

Another key purpose of the big toe is to aid in what is known as arch stabilization, which contributes to balance. The arch is also the part of the foot that helps to provide the spring in your gait. A strong arch helps your feet to adjust and adapt to varying surface types. When you do not have a strong arch, your foot can feel uncomfortable and sore. (source)

The big toe also helps to support and align the other joints and the plantar facia (a web-like ligament) in the foot, so that the calf muscle is able to generate propulsion.

Now, as you can imagine, being without your big toe causes some disadvantages–there are debates as to whether or not having one, or both of your big toes, will impede you from being able to run at all.

Some would argue that from a purely functional standpoint, the absence of the big toe will produce minimal, or potentially no disability. In certain studies, it has been found that as a result of the loss of the big toe, the skin thickens on the next two toes of the foot and the individuals in question simply tended to have more wear on their shoes on that specific side.

How Can You Adapt To Running Without Your Big Toe?

Initially, the thought of being without a part of your limb sounds daunting and it can feel overwhelming, especially when it comes to having to decide to amputate it; the usual cause being diabetes.

A nine, or eight-toed, gait is certainly going to be at a slower pace and your strides are likely to be shorter. Additionally, your running is going to probably be less efficient.

However, you can adjust to still be an effective runner. One key point would be to make the worthwhile investment of purchasing customized shoes that can be made to fit a foot lacking the big toe. These are able to assist a person to adjust to their new and altered gait and enable one to get back to enjoying running. Some key things that will need to be done are:

  • Modifying the style or manner of your run.
  • Training the surrounding muscles to compensate for the lack of a big toe.
  • Doing balance exercises to keep you remaining steady whilst running.

What Are Some Exercises To Do If You Don’t Have A Big Toe?

Here are some exercises and relevant YouTube videos:

  • Toe extensions, try to do 20 to 30 repetitions (these are good for the plantar fascia) – How to do them.
  • Toe Flexion, try to repeat this between 5 and 10 times (these help your toe joints) – How to do them.
  • Heel raises, be sure to do around 20 to 30 of these (strengthens the calf and ankle muscles) – How to do them.
  • Basic balance exercises, start simple and work your way up (aids balance and co-ordination) – How to do them.

Is A Prosthetic An Option For Running Without Your Big Toe?

The main purpose of a prosthetic toe is generally not functionality, but rather, they are used for aesthetic reasons; for example, if you wanted to wear open shoes and do not want people to stare at your foot.

So in terms of aiding your running ability, they are not really going to be of much help; it would be wiser, as mentioned previously, to invest in custom shoes.

As a side note, generally speaking, prosthetic toes are unnecessary; however, their existence has been recorded as far back as approximately 1000 B.C. where it was found that an Egyptian woman had a wooden prosthetic toe. (source) Nowadays prosthetic toes are funnily enough still mainly crafted from wood and then stained and their parts are bound together with leather thread.

Are Your Other Toes As Important For Running As Your Big Toe?

Comparatively, the big toe is the most important of all your toes, with the likes of the pinky toes, being the smallest, doing the least of the work. If one is born without their pinky toes or if they lose them, there will be very little overall impediment or effect felt. However, this being said, the other toes do still play their part, even if not to as great of an extent as the bigger toes (source).


Whether you have your big toe or not, at the end of the day you will still be able to enjoy a good run. The only considerations being that you will likely have to get used to the absence of it. This may take the form of altering your running style, the shoes that you wear and the additional training you will need to do to accommodate for the lack of the big toe.

There’s no need to lose heart, there are people who have lost far more than just their big toes and they put many fully able bodies to shame with their incredible athletic feats. So go out there and be sure to put your best foot forward. 


Peter is a software developer who loves to take every opportunity to go outside that he can get. Peter grew up going on long backpacking excursions with his family every Summer and now enjoys staying at the beautiful Texas State Parks and swimming in the amazing Texas Rivers.

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