Overview

A broken toe is a common injury that's most frequently caused by dropping something on your foot or stubbing your toe.

Usually, you can treat a broken toe by taping it to a neighboring toe. But if the fracture is severe — particularly if it involves your big toe — you may need a cast or even surgery to ensure proper healing.

Most broken toes heal well, usually within four to six weeks. Sometimes, a broken toe may become infected or increase the risk of osteoarthritis in that toe in the future.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of a broken toe include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Discoloration

When to see a doctor

Consult a doctor if the pain, swelling and discoloration continue for more than a few days or if the injury interferes with walking or wearing shoes.

Causes

A broken toe typically happens when you drop something heavy on your foot or you stub your toe against something hard.

Complications

Complications may include:

  • Infection. If the skin is cut near your injured toe, you are at higher risk of developing an infection in the bone.
  • Osteoarthritis. This wear-and-tear type of arthritis is more likely to occur when the fracture extends into one of the toe joints.

Dec. 14, 2017
  1. Eiff MP, et al. Toe fractures. In: Fracture Management for Primary Care. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2018. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Aug. 22, 2017.
  2. Buttaravoli P, et al. Toe fracture (broken toe). In: Minor Emergencies. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2012. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Aug. 22, 2017.
  3. Gravlee JR, et al. Toe fractures in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Aug. 22, 2017.
  4. Azar FM, et al. Fractures and dislocations of the foot. In: Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 13th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Aug. 22, 2017.

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