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Broken Toe

Facts and Definition of a Broken Toe

  • The definition of a toe fracture is when one or more of the toe bones of the foot are broken (fractured) after an injury to the foot or toes.
  • A broken toe usually is caused by trauma or injury to the foot or toe, such as a heavy object dropped on the foot or toe, or stubbing the toe. Stress fractures of the toe are caused by repetitive movements, such as in certain sports.
  • Signs and symptoms of a broken toe include
    • pain,
    • swelling,
    • stiffness,
    • bruising,
    • deformity,
    • difficulty walking,
    • injury to the toenail, or
    • feeling that shoes are too tight.
  • If the little toe (pinky toe) is injured you usually will still be able to walk. 
  • Immediate complications of a broken toe include nail injury (subungual hematoma) or open (compound) fracture, in which the broken bone in a toe fracture protrudes through the skin.
  • Delayed complications of a broken toe that occur after the broken toe has healed include arthritis, pain, stiffness, or deformity. The fractured bone may not heal completely (nonunion), or heals improperly (malunion), requiring surgery to fix the toe.
  • Treatment for a broken toe depends on the location and severity of the toe fracture. The fracture may need to be put back into place (reduced) and splinted or casted. If there is an open wound near the injured toe, a tetanus shot and antibiotics may be necessary. If the toe fracture is a minor or small fracture in a bone of one of the small toes, the doctor may tape a broken toe to the toe next to it for support (buddy taping).
  • Once you have been diagnosed with a broken toe by a doctor, there are home remedies to care for the broken toe that can help decrease pain and swelling, including elevating the injured foot, icing the injured toe, and rest (avoid walking on the injured foot). Use crutches of needed.
  • Broken toes usually take about six weeks to heal. If problems last longer than six weeks, another X-ray may be needed, or the injury should be rechecked by the doctor to see how the bone is healing.
  • The prognosis for a broken toe is generally good. Simple fractures usually heal well with no problems. Bad fractures are at risk for developing arthritis, pain, stiffness, and deformity.

What Are Common Causes of a Broken Toe?

Broken toes usually result from trauma or injury to the foot or toe. Injuries such as stubbing a toe or dropping a heavy object on a toe may cause a fracture. A broken toe may result from prolonged repetitive stress or movements, as in certain sports activities. This is called a stress fracture.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/30/2017

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Signs and Symptoms of a Broken Foot

Broken bones in the foot can be very painful. In addition to pain, other symptoms of a broken foot are:

  • Bruising
  • Redness
  • Inability to bear weight on the affected foot
  • Toes may be deformed or broken

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Fracture, Foot »

Approximately 10% of all fractures occur in the 26 bones of the foot.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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