Broken toe

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A broken toe can occur if one of the toes has been stubbed on hard surfaces, dropped something heavy on it or bending it excessively. A stress fracture can occur after an abrupt increase in activity such as walking or running.

What are the indications?

  • A pop or snap at the time of the injury
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Pain that is worse if the affected toe is touched or moved
  • Possible deformity such as the toe pointed in the wrong direction or twisted out of its usual alignment.
  • Diminished movement or pain occurs during movement

How is a broken toe diagnosed?

Broken toe
A broken toe can be diagnosed with a physical exam. The doctor will check for swelling, tenderness and black, purple or bluish spots.

A broken toe can be diagnosed with a physical exam. The doctor will check for swelling, tenderness and black, purple or bluish spots. An X-ray might be required to determine if the toe is dislocated or broken.


Treatment at home for a broken toe includes:

  • Application of an ice pack
  • Elevation of the affected foot
  • Adequate rest

The medical care for a broken toe usually depends on the toe that is damaged, where in the toe the break is and the severity.

If the individual is not diagnosed with diabetes or peripheral artery disease, the toe might be “buddy-taped” to the uninjured toe close to it.

The skin is protected by placing soft padding such as foam or felt between the toes before taping them together. The injured toe might require buddy taping for 2-4 weeks to heal. If the injured toe is painful after buddy taping, you should remove the tape.

In rare instances, other treatment might be required which includes:

  • Protecting the broken toe from further injury by using splints for stabilization, brace or a short leg cast.
  • Surgery might be required if the damage is severe.

Remember that medical care is required for a broken big toe than the other toes. If a fracture is left untreated, it can result to lasting pain, diminished movement and even deformity.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on a broken toe is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage fractures including on the toes, register for a first aid and CPR course with Mississauga First Aid.

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