Pain when wearing shoes and difficulty walking can signal a broken toe — so see your health care provider to help it heal and ease pain.
A broken toe is a common injury that's most often caused by dropping something on a foot or stubbing a toe.
Usually, treating a broken toe involves taping it to the next toe. But if the fracture is severe — especially if it's in the big toe — proper healing might require a cast or even surgery to heal well.
Most broken toes heal well, usually within 4 to 6 weeks. Sometimes, however, a broken toe can get infected. Also, the break might increase the risk of getting osteoarthritis in that toe in the future.
Signs and symptoms of a broken toe include:
Consult a health care provider if the pain, swelling and change in skin color last for more than a few days or if the injury affects walking or wearing shoes.
Dropping something heavy on a foot and stubbing the toe against something hard are the most common causes of a broken toe.
Complications may include:
During the physical exam, health care providers typically check for tender areas in the toe. The provider also will check the skin around the injury to make sure it's not cut and that the toe is still getting blood flow and nerve signals.
X-rays of the foot can confirm a broken toe.
You can usually manage pain from a broken toe with medicines such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) that you can get without a prescription. Severe pain might require prescription painkillers.
If the broken pieces of the bone don't fit snugly together, a care provider might need to move the pieces back into place. This is known as reduction. It's usually done without cutting the skin. Ice or a shot of anesthetic numbs the toe.
To heal, a broken bone must not move so that its ends can knit back together. Examples include:
In some cases, a surgeon may need to use pins, plates or screws to keep the bones in place during healing.
Raising the foot and using ice can help reduce swelling and pain. Prop your foot up when possible so that your injury is higher than your heart. If you use ice, wrap it in a towel so that it doesn't touch your skin. Use it for about 15 minutes at a time, taking a break of at least 20 minutes before icing again.
Your health care provider might refer you to a specialist in orthopedic surgery.
You may want to write a list that includes:
Your doctor may ask some of the following questions: