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What are the Most Common Symptoms of a Broken Toe?

By Bethany Keene
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The most common symptoms of a broken toe include pain, swelling, redness, and bruising around the affected toe. If the fracture is more severe, the toe may appear to be bent at a strange angle; in a compound fracture, the broken bone may actually stick out of the skin, though this is quite rare in toe fractures. Some people will also notice that the toenail appears to be affected as well. Sometimes a broken toe will cause blood to collect under the toenail, causing discoloration, or the toenail may actually fall off.

In general, a broken toe is fairly minor, and may not require any medical treatment unless a compound fracture is present, or if it is extremely painful or appears infected. Treatment for a broken toe generally involves taping the toe to the next toe in order to immobilize it, and trying to stay off the feet as much as possible for a few days to allow the bone to heal. If it is the smallest toe, this may not even be necessary, since a break in this toe generally does not make it difficult to walk. Elevating the foot and putting ice on it in 20-minute intervals for the first few hours after the injury is the best way to reduce swelling and prevent severe bruising.

Typically, the symptoms of a fractured toe are fairly straightforward. The pain will be immediate, and swelling and redness will generally appear within a few minutes. A dark bruise might appear within the first few hours, and may change colors over the next few days as the break begins to heal. The bruise might spread to the foot itself as well, but if pain is also present in the foot, it may be a good idea to visit a doctor to make sure that any bones in the foot are not broken too. If this is the case, the foot might appear swollen as well.

Unless a broken toe is present in the big toe or one of the larger toes, it is usually not difficult to walk, though some people find that it is painful to stand and walk around with a broken toe. It is important to wear comfortable shoes and not wear shoes that pinch or compress the toes, such as heels which put a great deal of pressure on the toes. A broken big toe is obviously the most painful, and in some rare cases might need surgery to correct, but this is not common. Never hesitate to get a doctor's opinion, however.

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Discussion Comments
By Lostnfound — On Aug 12, 2014

I broke my big toe when I was about 20. I dropped a stereo speaker on it. Ouch! The toenail turned completely blue. I taped up the toe and hobbled around for a week or so.

Probably six weeks or so later, I was clipping my toenails and noticed the nail on my previously broken toe was really thick. I trimmed it and the old nail came completely away from my toe in one piece! A nice new nail had grown up underneath.

My toe also swelled, but it was summer and I was wearing sandals, so it didn't matter that much.

By Grivusangel — On Aug 11, 2014

Many years ago, my mom opened the freezer and when she did, a pound package of frozen ground beef slid out. She couldn't catch it and it hit one of her toes -- I think it was her third toe -- and broke it. She screamed like a banshee. I know it hurt. She worked for a doctor's office and he X-rayed the foot and said the toe was indeed, broken. He taped it to her second toe and told her to be careful.

Other than the pain, she said it really didn't hurt a lot, otherwise. She walked on it anyway, and said as long as it was taped, she didn't have any pain.

I guess it all depends on the person, but Mom said she didn't think much about it after a day or so.

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