Metatarsal Stress Fractures
July 4, 2018
Unicameral Bone Cyst
July 25, 2018

What to Know About a Broken Toe



What does a broken toe look like?

When you look down at your foot, your toe will appear bruised and swollen. The toe might even look crooked. The toenail may appear discolored. This is due to blood accumulating under the nail (aka subungual hematoma).

On x-ray, there will be an obvious fracture line. The fractured bone might be in two parts, or in multiple parts. The fracture might even extend into a joint. The bone that has been fractured may appear well aligned, or it may be displaced by several millimeters.

Can a broken toe get infected? 

Yes! If your skin was cut during the time of injury, or the nail was damaged, then bacteria can enter the toe and cause an infection. If your skin is cut at the time of injury, it is important to wash the wound well with soap and water. Avoid hydrogen peroxide. I also highly recommend going to an urgent care or foot doctor immediately for a proper washout, and to evaluate the severity of the fracture. 

Will a broken toe itch?  

As the broken toe is healing, it might start to itch. This is due to your body releasing histamines to the area during the inflammatory phase of healing. Just think of this as a signal that your body is in the process of remodeling your broken toe.

How to heal a broken toe faster?

See a foot specialist immediately! It’s best to get your broken toe evaluated as soon as you can to determine the severity of the fracture. If the fracture is displaced by several millimeters, it should be reduced and then taped in the proper anatomical position. Occasionally, a severely displaced fracture might even require surgery.

The foot specialist can also evaluate the toenail as well as any cuts that might have occurred when the toe was injured. Preemptive measures can then be taken to make sure the toenail is cared for properly, and avoid potential toe infection.

Expect your toe to take at least 6 weeks to be fully healed.

Why buddy tape a broken toe?

Buddy taping is essential for healing a toe fracture. Taping helps to stabilize the two ends of the fracture so that the bone can heal without excessive movement. Think of buddy taping as a cast that you would wear on your broken arm or leg.

It’s always best to tape the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th toes together for stability. For example, if you break your 4th toe, then tape it to the 3rd toe, rather than the 5th toe. The 1st and 5th toes are attached to other bones that have more motion than the bones attached to the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th toes. Excessive motion can impede healing of the 2nd or 4th toes if they were to be buddy taped to the 1st or 5th toes.

What shoes for a broken toe?

Stiff soled shoes are recommended. This can include supportive sandals, or enclosed shoes. Avoid shoes with narrow toe boxes, and high heals. These types of shoes will not accommodate for swelling, and could displace the fracture even further.

Why is my broken toe still swollen?

Whenever you have a fracture in your foot, your body will increase blood flow to the area to help with healing. When the extra blood gets congested, it increases pressure in the capillaries (tiny blood vessels), which causes fluid to leak into the surrounding tissues. This results in the swollen appearance of your toe. The swelling will continue to be present until the fracture is healed. This may taken 2-3 months.


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