Small Fixes: Healing Broken Toes


Sometimes it doesn’t take much to fix something. A small patch can repair a bicycle tire. Changing your hold on the bat just a little can improve your hitting. A parent’s simple hug and kiss can dry many a child’s tears. Though broken toes can hurt like crazy, treatment for them is often small and simple, too—but still crucial for your well-being.

How Do You Fracture Toes?

While other bones in your feet can get stress fractures from overuse or improper technique, most broken toes happen as a result of trauma. Common causes are dropping something heavy on them, or stubbing them against a hard object. You can get as creative as you like, though! Toes have probably been fractured by landing on them while dancing, catching them in a car door, or pounding them with a sledge hammer—accidents always seem to happen in the oddest ways.


How Do You Know Your Toe Is Broken?

It can be hard to tell, because other injuries can have similar symptoms. Your body has a great way of letting you know something is wrong: nerves in the damaged area send messengers to your brain that yell “ouch!” Your brain responds by telling your body to rush extra fluids and blood cells to the area to get busy and repair the damage. This fluid buildup can cause swelling at the injury site. Blood may leak from damaged capillaries in the area and pool under the skin. This is the blue bruising you will see on the toe.

Most broken toes will have one or more of these indicators—pain, swelling, and discoloration. However, sprains and bruises may have them, too. Keep an eye on things for a day or two, and if these symptoms do not improve, come in and let us examine your toe. Something more serious could be going on that you can’t see. Our evaluations and diagnosis will tell you exactly what’s happening and we can figure out what will best address your pain and limitation.

First Aid for Broken Toes

As soon as you injure your toe, rest your leg as often as possible and use cold therapy to keep the swelling and pain under control. A bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a thin cloth and nestled around the toes works well, as does an ice water soak. Do this for no more than 20 minutes at a time, at least an hour apart. Raise your foot above heart level when resting (whenever possible). If these methods don’t bring relief within a day or two, call us.

Get Treatment from Denver Area Foot Care Experts

As long as the pieces of bone still line up, buddy taping may be all you need until the toe is healed. With this treatment, we tape the fractured toe to its neighbor, putting a piece of gauze between to keep the area comfortable and protect it from friction. The good toe functions as a splint to hold the injured one straight at it heals.

In some cases—diabetic feet, for example—this method may not be advisable. Then we might prescribe stiff-soled shoes with a rocker bottom to wear until the toe has healed. These help keep the toe from bending and allow it to heal better.

Serious breaks that move the bones out of alignment or pierce the skin will need more extensive treatment. The fracture will need to be reduced (bones lined up) and may need a splint, cast or other method to hold the toe in correct position.

Broken toes may seem like little things, and many times require only a simple fix, but thinking they will just heal on their own is not a good idea. Call Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center in Wheat Ridge or Golden, CO, at (303) 423-2520 and set up an appointment to let us evaluate your injury. We will help your toes heal properly to reduce the chance of chronic foot pain or arthritis in the future. We are simply the best choice for taking care of your feet!

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