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Broken Toe


You may break (fracture) one of your toes by stubbing it, dropping something on it, or bending it. A hairline crack (stress fracture) may occur after a sudden increase in activity, such as increased running or walking.

Symptoms of a broken toe may include pain when you move your toe. You may have noticed a snap or pop at the time of injury. There may be swelling and bruising. The toe may also be in a different position than normal.

How is a broken toe diagnosed?

A broken toe is diagnosed through a physical examination. Your health professional will look for swelling, purple or black and blue spots, and tenderness. An X-ray may be needed to determine whether the toe is broken or dislocated.

How is a broken toe treated?

Some broken toes can be cared for at home. Try using ice, elevating the foot, and resting.

Treatment depends on which toe is broken, where in the toe the break is and how bad the break is. Medical treatment is needed more often for a broken big toe than for the other toes. If you don't have diabetes or peripheral arterial disease, your toe can be buddy-taped to the healthy toe next to it. Put some soft padding, such as felt or foam, between your toes before you tape them together. This helps protect the skin. Your injured toe may need to be buddy-taped for 2 to 4 weeks to heal. If your injured toe hurts more after buddy taping it, take the tape off.

Other treatment may be needed. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Wearing a splint or cast to keep the toe stable and help it heal.
  • Surgery. This may be an option for a bad break.

A fracture that isn't treated may cause long-term pain, limited movement, and deformity.

Broken toe: when to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have severe pain.
  • Your toe is cool or pale or changes color.
  • You have tingling, weakness, or numbness in your toe.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Pain and swelling get worse.
  • You are not getting better as expected.
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