Capsulitis Treatment for Toes, Feet, and Ankles

Milwaukee Podiatrists Offer Relief for Feet


Feet with Long Second Toes

An elongated second toe can cause capsulitis.

Each joint in your foot is surrounded by a tissue capsule (the “pads” of your feet) which keeps the joints lubricated. Inflammation of the tissue causes a medical condition known as capsulitis. Capsulitis of the second toe in particular is extremely common. The podiatrists of Advanced Foot & Ankle of Wisconsin are ready to help you recover from capsulitis.

What is Capsulitis in the Foot vs Ankle

Most cases of capsulitis occur in the ball of the foot, the pads right below your toes. With the capsules unable to distribute weight equally, the toes take the brunt of the extra weight. The second toe tends to be most severely affected by this due to its central placement. The metatarsal bones might begin to shift without the extra padding to keep them in place. Patients with late stage foot capsulitis may even have overlapping toes.

“Frozen ankle” occurs when there’s capsule inflammation in the ankle region. The joint is called “frozen” because the inflammation essentially locks the ankle into one position. Our podiatrists treat ankle pain from capsulitis as well as foot conditions.

Causes of Foot and Ankle Inflammation

Capsule inflammation is caused when a lot of physical pressure is exerted on the feet. Bunions and weak low foot arches can cause poor pressure distribution which leads to capsulitis. High heels are another cause of unequal weight being applied to your feet.

The likelihood of capsulitis increases if your second toe is longer than your big toe. Normally, the big toe has more padding than the other toes in order to support more pressure. An elongated second toe will take on more weight even though it was not designed to do so.

Ankle capsulitis has more complex causes. While overuse is still a possible source, other conditions leading to frozen ankle include autoimmune disease and diabetes. An ankle fracture which does not heal properly may also lead to inflammation, as will multiple sprains and fractures of the same ankle.

Capsulitis Prevention


Wrapped Foot with Capsulitis

Foot wraps and custom orthotics can prevent capsulitis.

Capsulitis can occur in individuals of all ages and lifestyles. Athletes, especially runners, should ensure their footwear has adequate toe space and cushioning. They should also stretch before and after any foot-intensive workout. Basic exercises to prevent foot capsulitis include:

  • Toe lifts
  • Heel lifts
  • Pre-/post-workout foot massages

Wear proper footwear whenever going for long walks or hikes. Flip-flops and ballet flats do not provide enough support for long distances. And high heels are fun in short bursts but redistribute pressure in a way that can lead to inflammation.

If your second toe is longer than your big toe you may want to use extra caution to prevent capsulitis from developing. Taping your toes together before long walks or athletic activities may improve the distribution of weight.

To prevent frozen ankle, do not exercise on a fractured or sprained ankle. Wait to heal completely before putting any strain on your ankle.

Symptoms of Capsulitis

  • Pain or discomfort putting weight on the forefoot
  • Pain in the second, third, or fourth toes
  • Visible swelling on the forefoot
  • Stiff ankle joint or “frozen” ankle
  • Pain after prolonged period of walking/running
  • Sensation of stepping on a small object (like a stone or seed) when you haven’t
  • Presence of bunions
  • Foot or ankle pain does not subside over time

A small amount of pain in your toes could be an early indicator of capsulitis. Monitor the pain and schedule a consultation with Advanced Foot & Ankle of Wisconsin for diagnosis and treatment.

How is capsulitis different from Morton’s neuroma?

Capsulitis is a specific type of inflammation. Morton’s neuroma is a type of nerve damage in the foot. Capsulitis is usually in the second toe or ankle; neuroma is most often between the third and fourth toes and ball of the foot. Both can cause pain in feet and may be caused by wearing shoes which are too tight.

Surgical Treatment for Foot Capsulitis

Capsulitis can lead to joint pain and limited mobility. Without treatment the pressure on the toes can lead to stress fractures.

Anti-inflammatory medication is usually enough to minimize inflammation. Custom orthotics from Advanced Foot & Ankle of Wisconsin podiatrists give your feet the support they need to keep pressure off your toes and ankles. These aren’t one-size-fits all shoe inserts - our prescription orthotics are designed to correct the structure of your exact foot!


Frozen Ankle Being Massages

Our podiatrists treat foot, ankle, and toe pain from capsulitis

Temporary pain relief options for capsulitis:

  • Elevate your foot
  • Apply ice packs
  • Avoid wearing tight or narrow shoes
  • Wear thick socks

Inflammation which does not go away on its own may require surgical treatment. This is usually to correct problems of late stage capsulitis like misaligned metatarsal bones. The Advanced Foot & Ankle of Wisconsin team includes surgical podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons who can operate on your capsulitis.

For some patients, metatarsal osteotomy may be suggested to shorten the second toe. This is done to prevent capsulitis from reoccurring. This is only recommended if all other preventative treatments have all failed.

Recovery time from capsulitis surgery averages a few weeks. Healing is generally complete within 3 months. During this time special orthotics or a cast may be used to protect the bones of the foot from shifting. Recovery from a second metatarsal osteotomy will take longer than since your will have to readjust your balance due to the shortened toe. Full recovery from osteotomy may take over 6 months.

Consult with the podiatrist and orthopedic surgeons of Advanced Foot & Ankle of Wisconsin to learn more about your options for treating and diagnosing foot capsulitis.

Schedule a foot capsulitis consultation in southeast Wisconsin with Advanced Foot & Ankle podiatrists.