how to treat broken toesBroken toes are a common injury. Perhaps it’s happened to you. Instead of turning on a light in the middle of the night you stumbled in the dark and stubbed your toe on your dresser. Or perhaps you’re an athlete and you injured your toes during active sports.  

No matter how you injured it, the pain can be excruciating. And while it will likely subside over time, you should make an appointment with your podiatrist to have it evaluated. While you may only have bruised it, you could just as easily have fractured it and that requires treatment.

The bones in our toes are comprised of our toes or phalanges and the metatarsal or long bones just in front of them extending into the midfoot.

Traumatic or Acute Broken Toes

Traumatic or acute toe breaks or fractures are caused by sudden impact or a direct blow, such as when you run into a piece of furniture in your house or if you’re on the receiving end of a hockey stick swing. Acute toe fractures can be either displaced or non-displaced. The former would show that the toe has moved out of position and the latter not at all.

These types of injuries almost always affect our toes, not our metatarsal bones. However, there are two types of acute fractures of the 5th metatarsals that occur with some frequency. One is a Jones Fracture and the other is an Avulsion Fracture.

Signs and symptoms of an acute toe fracture can include:

  • Intense, throbbing pain at the site of impact with lessening of the pain over several hours
  • May hear the bone breaking
  • Bruising and swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Crooked or misshapen appearance
  • Difficulty with walking (but not always)

Treatment of Broken Toes in North Seattle


The way toe fractures are treated depends on the type of break. These treatments can include:

  • Rest
  • Splinting
  • Wearing rigid or stiff-soled shoes to keep the toe in place
  • Walking boot if rigid shoes aren’t enough
  • Buddy taping the broken toe to the one next to it (but this may also be harmful so follow the advice of your podiatrist)
  • Surgery

It’s important to get a toe injury of any kind evaluated to get proper treatment. Avoiding treatment or getting the wrong treatment can lead to future problems including:

  • Deformity of the toes
  • Arthritis
  • Chronic pain

Stress Fractures of the Toes

Stress fractures of the toes are hairline fractures typically caused by overuse or repetitive stress. These types of fractures most commonly occur in athletes, particularly those who increase their training time too rapidly. Stress fractures occur most often in the metatarsal bones.

Other causes include:

  • Abnormal foot structure
  • Women who are post-menopausal
  • Underweight in women
  • Osteoporosis
  • Wearing unstable or worn out footwear

Signs and symptoms of a toe stress fracture include:

  • Pain with normal activity or after activity
  • Pain that disappears with rest and comes on with activity
  • Swelling without bruising

Treatment for Stress Fractures of the Toes

Since stress fractures most often occur in athletes, stopping the sport that led to the fracture is vital to healing. Just like treatment for toe fractures, it’s also important to use a rigid shoe or walking boot to prevent the toes from moving.

Prevention of Stress Fractures of the Toes

Most stress fractures of the toes can be prevented. Here’s how.

  • Build up running or other sports activities slowly; no more than 10% increase each week.
  • Use custom orthotics to balance abnormal foot structure.
  • Wearing supportive, stable shoes.
  • Eat a diet rich in calcium and with enough calories to maintain proper weight.
  • Get enough Vitamin D to give your body what it needs to keep your bones strong through sun exposure, food, and supplements.

Learn about other types of sports injuries treatments here.

Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.