Sprained toes are common injuries. When you have a sprained toe, you may still be able to move that toe and walk, but you should still see your podiatrist to make sure your injury heals properly.

When you have sprained your toe, it means that you’ve caused damage to one of the ligaments that surround your toe joint. This damage could be a result of stretching, twisting or allowing strong forces to impact the ligaments.

Because sprained and broken toes often present with the same symptoms, you should always see your doctor for foot and ankle injuries. You may need an X-ray to rule out a fracture.

What are the Symptoms of a Sprained Toe?

You may have a sprained toe if:

  • Your toe hurts, especially when you walk
  • You have difficulty moving the toe
  • There is swelling, bruising, throbbing or tenderness

There are many different ways your toe could get sprained, but common causes include stubbing your toe, either against the wall or on the floor. You may sprain your toe if it gets caught on something as your walk or run, resulting in a twisting motion. If you trip, your toe may get bent backward, overextending the ligaments. Sprained toes are also common among athletes, especially football players, who are very susceptible to turf toe. Turf toe is an injury that occurs when your toes are bent too far upward; it’s common with athletes who play on artificial turf, since pushing off on the hard surface takes a toll on your ligament.

Treating a Sprained Toe If your toe is swollen and tender to the touch, it could be sprained...but it could also be broken!

Once you’ve ruled out a broken toe, most sprains can be healed at home, using RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

Over the counter pain relievers can also help with the discomfort and swelling; Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, are best. In some cases, you may need to take all pressure off your toe in order to fully heal, especially if your sprain is severe. If that’s the case, your doctor can provide a walking boot or crutches to help you through your recovery.

Of course, healing may take several weeks, but if you follow your podiatrist’s instructions, you should be pain-free and back to your normal activities fairly quickly!

A Warning Regarding Sprained and Broken Toes

Let’s review one dangerous foot myth: If you can move your toe,  or walk on it, it must not be fractured. That statement is not, in fact, true. You may very well be able to move your toe, even if you’ve broken a bone. It will hurt, but you may well be able to do it. Here are the telltale signs to watch for that indicate you might have a broken foot:

  • Immediate pain (throbbing)
  • Swelling
  • Bruising or Redness
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Pain that is better when resting and worse when moving
  • Change in shape of foot, toe or ankle
  • Problems getting your shoe on or off

Here’s the important thing to remember after an injury: even just one of these signs could be an indication of a broken bone. The only way to definitively rule out or diagnose a broken foot, toe or ankle bone is to see your doctor as soon as possible after becoming injured.

In my Houston podiatry practice, I offer in house x-rays and treat broken bones with the highest level of care, with a far shorter wait time than you’d experience in a hospital emergency room.

If you experience pain immediately after a fall or other foot injury, there’s a good chance that you’ve got a sprained or broken toe, foot or ankle. Come see Dr. Andrew Schneider immediately so you can get on the path to a full recovery.


Dr. Andrew Schneider
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A podiatrist and foot surgeon in Houston, TX.