Why Does my Toe Hurt So Much?

Most of the time, we don’t give a lot of thought to our toes. Maybe you paint the nails, maybe you don’t. But most of the time, they just sit there in your socks, balancing out the rest of your foot. Until, that is, they start to hurt. All of a sudden, those toes are all you can think about! So, if that’s the boat you’re in right now, don’t despair: I’m here to help. Just keep reading as I walk you through the possible causes of your toe woe!

The Most Common Causes of Toe Injury Do your toes hurt? I can help you get to the bottom of what's causing your discomfort!

For something so small, there sure are a lot of ways to hurt your toes. These are some of the worst offenders:

  1. Smashes and stubs. Newsflash: a lot of you guys drop stuff on your toes. Even something as seemingly-harmless as a book, when dropped from your chest height, can injure your toe on impact. Especially if you’re into reading long, drawn-out sagas. The same thing goes for walls and corners that seem to come out of nowhere, right when you’re walking past (and into) them. Stubbing injuries hurt like heck, and can also frequently leave you with a sprained or fractured toe!
  2. Sports. Athletics can be tough on your toes, especially if you play on artificial surfaces. Take turf toe, for example. This injury is a sprain that’s caused when you keep bending your toe, or pushing off it to get a running start. This kind of injury usually builds up over time, but can sometimes be acute, if you trip over your toe or get it caught on something.
  3. Your diet.  If your big toe is red and throbbing, you may just have gout. Gout is a kind of arthritis that causes inflammation when your uric acid levels build up in your blood stream. And a diet high in not-so-good stuff like beer, sugary sodas, organ meat or even fruit juice can trigger a flare up. That’s why we see so many gout patients in the days after Super Bowl Sunday.
  4. Your own body. Sometimes, faulty mechanics in your body can mess with your toe’s alignment. Over time, this can cause a bony outgrowth to develop between your big toe (bunion) or baby toe (bunionette or tailor’s bunion.) Left untreated, bunions can make it hard to find shoes that fit. Walking may become difficult. And some people may even develop arthritis in the areas surrounding their bunions.

How Do We Treat Toe Pain?

Don’t worry—I can make your toe stop hurting. But HOW I do that will depend on what’s causing your discomfort.  When you come into my Houston podiatry office with toe pain, I’ll conduct a thorough examination to see if your problem appears to be coming from your muscles or ligaments (a sprain), or your bones or joints.  In some cases, I made need to order X-rays—which we can do in the office—to determine the exact cause of your injury.

Even if your toe is broken, you probably won’t need to be casted. Typically, we can isolate your injured toe by taping it to its neighbor (buddy taping.) Rest, ice and elevation can also help your toe heal quicker. The same treatment will likely be applied with a sprained toe. And, with either injury, most people will recover fully within 6 weeks. Still, if your fracture is displaced or really severe, your bone may need to be realigned surgically.

But what about the other issues, like bunions? When your toe pain is rooted in biomechanical issues, I try to address the underlying imbalances that are putting pressure on your feet. You may need to change your footwear, get fitted for orthotics or get some physical therapy. In some cases, I may recommend surgery. But, no matter what, take heart: we can and will determine the cause of your toe pain and resolve your discomfort. So you can get back to the business of forgetting those toes even exist.



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