Some two million Americans suffer from big toe arthritis, which makes it hard for them to do simple things like exercise or wear high heels.

But a new implant could help people who have the condition and want to stay active get back on their feet.

“Stiffness is the most troublesome symptom. People can’t bend over their big toe, they can’t squat down, they can’t get into shoes.”

Doctor Lance Silverman says big toe arthritis is caused when the cartilage in the joint wears out, making the bones rub against one another, limiting the toe’s movement and causing excruciating pain.

He’s the first orthopedic surgeon in Minneapolis to perform a procedure that takes an implant called Cartiva, which is the same size as a gumdrop and made out of the same material as a contact lens, and inserts it between the bones to act as a shock absorber.

“It’s so exciting because it’s simple…it’s an elegant solution. It reproduces Mother Nature as close as humans have been able to do in this particular area and does so with a particular track record.”

Dr. Silverman says the usual treatment for big toe arthritis is fusing the bones together – but that means the patient can’t bend their toe anymore.

But with the Cartiva implant, the toe retains its full range of motion and patients are back in regular shoes within a couple of weeks, rather than a couple of months with a bone fusion.

“That allows you to do the running and jogging that you couldn’t do. It allows people to get back to yoga-like exercise where they can bend that toe joint and not roll out as much. So, there’s really some potential there that fusion couldn’t possibly provide.”

And so far, Dr. Silverman says the implant has helped four of his patients give big toe arthritis the boot.

“It’s very confident, or highly confident, that it’s gonna give me better results than I have been getting from my other joint replacement procedures.”