Hallux rigidus is characterized by restriction of motion at the first metatarsophalangeal joint. It is a common disorder that has been reported to affect one in forty-five individuals who are more than fifty years of age. There is a generalized decrease in motion with particular limitation of dorsiflexion. Hallux rigidus is often associated with a mechanical block to dorsiflexion caused by periarticular osteophytes, with an impingement exostosis of the first metatarsal head against an osteophyte at the base of the proximal phalanx. The natural course of this disorder is typical of degenerative processes, with profession of the osteoarthritic changes leading to limitation of motion interference with function of the metatarsophalangeal joint.

Other terms that have been used to describe this clinical entity include hallux limitus, dorsal bunion, and localized arthrosis. When there is a large dorsal osteophyte, the great toe is in a position of flexion, which has led to use of the term hallux flexus. As the position of the great toe becomes even more plantar, the metatarsal becomes elevated, which has led to use of the term metatarsus elevatus.