(Broken Toe; Fracture, Toe)
by Mary Calvagna, MS
A toe fracture is a break in a toe bone. The bones in the toes are called phalanges.
A toe fracture is caused by trauma to the bone. Trauma can result from:
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that may increase your risk of a toe fracture include:
A toe fracture may cause:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms, level of physical activity, how the injury occurred, and will examine the injured area. Your doctor may take an x-ray of the foot, but this is not always needed.
Proper treatment can prevent long-term complications or problems with your toe, such as immobility or misalignment. Treatment will depend on how serious the fracture is, but may include:
Extra support may be needed to protect, support, and keep your toe in line while it heals. Supportive steps may include buddy taping (your injured toe is taped to healthy toes next to it), a walking cast, or stiff bottom shoe.
Some fractures cause pieces of bone to separate. Your doctor will need to put these pieces back into their proper place. This may be done:
Children’s bones are still growing at an area of the bone called the growth plate. If the fracture affected the growth plate, your child may need to see a specialist. Injuries to the growth plate will need to be monitored to make sure the bone can continue to grow as expected.
Prescription or over-the-counter medications may be given to help reduce inflammation and pain.
Medications may include acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Check with your doctor before taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or aspirin.
Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.
Rest and Recovery
Healing time varies by age and your overall health. Children and people in better overall health heal faster. In general, it takes up to 6-8 weeks for a fractured toe to heal.
You will need to adjust your activities while your toe heals, but complete rest is rarely required. Ice and elevating the leg at rest may also be recommended to help with discomfort and swelling.
Do not return to activities or sports until your doctor gives you permission to do so.
If you have a fractured toe, follow your doctor's instructions.
To help reduce your chance of toe fractures, take these steps:
To help reduce falling hazards at work and home, take these steps:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Hatch RL, Hacking S. Evaluation and management of toe fractures [review]. Am Fam Physician. 2003;68(12):2413-2418.
March fracture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated November 3, 2012. Accessed September 14, 2013.
Ribbans WJ, Natarajan R, Alavala S. Pediatric foot fractures. Clin Orthop. 2005;(432):107-115.
Toe and forefoot fractures. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00165 . Updated September 2012. Accessed September 14, 2013.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2013