Capsulitis of the Second Toe & the Most Effective Treatments

capsulitis of the second toe treatment

Your foot is comprised of 33 joints and 26 bones that work together with 107 ligaments and 19 muscles to help you move, run, walk, you name it. Each of these structures that compose a joint is subjected to damage, injuries, and various disorders that affect your range of motion and quality of life. Capsulitis of the second toe is a common, yet poorly understood, problem that affects millions of people across the globe. What is capsulitis and how to treat it? Scroll down to find out.

What is Capsulitis of the 2nd Toe?​

Capsulitis is defined as a condition wherein the ligaments surrounding the joint becomes inflamed. The condition can affect third and fourth toes, but the second toe is most commonly affected. Basically, ligaments that surround joint at the base of the second toe on your leg form a capsule whose purpose is to support function of the joint. Inflammation of this capsule causes discomfort, and it can weaken surrounding ligaments when left unmanaged.

A little-known fact is that capsulitis can affect any joint in your body, not just your second toe. The reason why capsulitis is poorly understood could be down to the fact that joints are subjected to many other conditions that are expressed by similar symptoms. For example, capsulitis, synovitis, and bursitis are all almost identical to most people, but there are essential differences between them.

bursitis and capsulitis

Synovitis is, basically, an inflammation of synovial membrane, i.e., the tissues that line a joint. As a result, fluid in the joint increases and affects its stability. On the flip side, bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa next to the joint of your toe. Bursa is a fluid-filled sac that absorbs shock and lubricates points where bones, joints, and other musculoskeletal structures rub against one another. And as you’re already aware, capsulitis is inflammation of capsules surrounding the joint. All three conditions occur in different parts of your joint, but their similarity is that they involve inflammation and significant discomfort.



The primary cause of capsulitis of the second toe is abnormal foot mechanics where the ball of the foot located right beneath the joint sustains significant pressure. Too much stress on the foot joints, medically called metatarsophalangeal joint or MTP can be a result of injury, trauma, foot deformities, and wrong footwear. In some instances, it is a combination of abnormal foot mechanics and repetitive motion of the foot that forms significant pressure on the ball of the foot thus causing degeneration of the connective tissues.

While everyone can develop capsulitis of the second toe, some people are a higher risk than others. The most common risk factors for this common condition include:

  • Second toe much bigger than the big toe
  • Tight calf muscles on the involved side e.g. tight calf muscles in right leg increase the risk of capsulitis of the second toe in the right foot
  • Having bunions
  • Unstable foot arch
  • Wearing uncomfortable footwear regularly (this also includes uncomfortable high heels)
  • Imbalance between muscles on top and below the involved foot



Like many other conditions that affect joints, capsulitis of the second toe induces various symptoms and some of them include:

  • Pain and swelling of the second toe
  • Difficulty wearing shoes
  • Experiencing pain and discomfort while walking barefoot
  • Feeling like sock is bunched up or like there is a marble in your shoe
  • Stinging and burning sensations in the second toe
  • Numbness
  • Redness of the affected joint
  • Stiffness of the forefoot area

Bear in mind that capsulitis of the second toe is a progressive condition. Signs and symptoms of this common problem may not be severe or bothersome at first, but when left unmanaged pain, discomfort, and other symptoms become more severe and frustrating. In the most severe cases, the joint of second toe weakens and it may drift toward the big toe, crossover, and lie on top of it.

How to Treat Capsulitis​

We are inclined to ignore problems affecting our feet and usually assume tiredness or shoes are to blame for pain, discomfort, and other symptoms. The last thing you should do is to ignore symptoms of capsulitis. You need to be proactive and manage this foot problem.


The reason is simple; the condition responds well to a well-structured conventional plan but only when it is diagnosed in early stages and treated in a timely manner. Surgery is yet another viable treatment for this condition, but it is only recommended in instances when other treatment approaches don’t work.

So, what to do and how to treat capsulitis of the 2nd toe? Here are a few useful and practical suggestions.


capsulitis of the second toe taping

The goal of taping or splinting has a goal to place the affected toe in a position that will decrease the risk of further injury. This simple method also speeds up capsulitis foot recovery time, especially when it is combined with other approaches. A simple kinesio tip can be of enormous help here. When you use tape, you not only allow joint to realign properly, but the risk of drifting and crossing the big toe decreases as well.

Physical Therapy​

capsulitis physical therapy and foot excercises

This is probably the most common conventional treatment measure for capsulitis of the second toe. Your physical therapist teaches you about the importance of proper stretching and other useful exercises you can do to alleviate pain and inflammation. Before you start doing any capsulitis foot exercises on your own, you should consult your physical therapist. The wrong choice of an exercise can hinder your recovery.


As seen above, the condition occurs when significant pressure is exerted onto the affected joint. Therefore, rest is necessary for effective treatment of the condition. Resting your foot alleviates pressure and stress while allowing the inflamed ligament to recover properly.


Cold packs belong to the group of the most widely used treatment approaches for various joint-related conditions. The reason is simple; cold numbs the pain and tingling sensations thus making it easier for you to manage this condition and cope with symptoms.

Foot Pads​

capsulitis foot pads

Custom shoe inserts and capsulitis foot pads improve shock absorption of the footwear thus protecting your toe from further damage and injury. At the same time, these pads and inserts make it easier for a person with this common condition to move, especially at work when you’re basically wearing your shoes all day long.

For foot pads we recommend Dr Frederick's Original Pad Set.​

Proper Shoes​

proper shoes for capsulitis

People with capsulitis of the second toe also need to wear proper shoes in order to manage their condition more effectively. When buying shoes you should stay away from high heels and footwear with narrow toe-boxes. Instead, you should opt for shoes with a zero heel-to-toe drop to avoid exerting more pressure onto the affected toe. Here are some shoe examples for your condition:

1. Altra Men’s Lone Peak 3 Running Shoe - the shoe has a wide toe box and great cushioning that supports all structures of your feet. In addition, these shoes have a zero heel-to-toe drop and they feature a footbed that follows your foot’s contour. The shoe locks your heel in place meaning it is also suitable for men with plantar fasciitis.

2. ASICS Men’s M2 Running Shoe – these particular shoes are specifically created to improve flexibility and comfort while gently cushioning your feet. Besides the zero-drop, the shoe comes with a removable insole meaning you can use your own foot pad instead if it’s necessary.

3. Merrell Men’s Traveler Slip-On Shoe – this work shoe is easy to put on and provides much-needed comfort to your feet throughout the day. In addition to removable insoles, the shoe features an odor-resistant lining to keep feet dry and fresh while the contoured design increases support.

Dietary Supplements​

joint health and anti-inflammatory supplements

Consumption of anti-inflammatory diet and supplements is an effective capsulitis management strategy. Why? Well, inflammation causes this problem so foods and supplements that combat inflammatory state can also help reduce pain and other symptoms caused by this condition. Besides anti-inflammatory foods (olive oil, Omega-3, fruits, nuts, vegetables), you should also consider taking supplements such as:

1. New Chapter Joint Supplement – anti-inflammatory ingredients such as ginger, turmeric, olive oil, and green tea extract make this supplement a valuable addition to your capsulitis treatment. Regular intake of the product is dubbed effective in promoting healthy response to inflammation, joint function, mobility, and flexibility as well as pain relief.

2. Primal Joint Support and Healthy Inflammation – a combination of vitamins, herbs, and other potent ingredients successfully alleviates joint pain and discomfort in both men and women. Regular consumption of the supplement lubricates joints for an improved mobility.

3. Dr. Formulas Mendamine – this particular supplement has about 25 ingredients that support joint health and function, decrease inflammation, lubricate joints, and help your body absorb nutrients in food more effectively for improved functionality of your joints. All these factors are important for the capsulitis of the second toe management.

In Summary​

Capsulitis is a frequent problem that has a negative impact on your quality of life when left unmanaged. Instead of ignoring capsulitis and expecting it to go away on its own, you need to be proactive. Although symptoms of this condition are uncomfortable and frustrating, there’s a lot you can do to minimize their intensity and feel better, move easily, and participate in your favorite activities. This post provided a useful insight into capsulitis of the second toe and its treatment. Now you know how to take care of this problem and you just need to start.