I Have Stubbed my Toe! Is it Broken?


I have stubbed my toe! Could it be broken?

You’re in a rush to do something in the house and as you are taking those corners like a Formula One driver, you underestimate the size of your feet. SMACK! Straight into the furniture.  You freeze, go into a fetal position and see the stars and planets.  “WHAT THE!” you cry out.

Almost every person has stubbed their toe at some stage of their life. In most cases, the trauma is nothing more than a knock to the joints although the pain might make you feel as if you have broken a toe. But how can you distinguish if serious toe damage has been done? It can often be difficult distinguish a stubbed toe from a broken toe — especially considering that there are so many nerve endings in the feet.


What Are The Signs Of A Broken Toe?

Below are some questions to ask that can help you distinguish between a bruised, stubbed/sprained or a broken toe. These include but are not limited to:

  • Did you a ‘crack’ noise? If you did hear a crack noise then there is a good chance you might have suffered a fracture in the toe bone.
  • Has the pain improved or gotten worse after 24 hours? The pain from a stubbed toe reduces normally. If the pain is getting worse or not changing after 24-72 hours, then you should suspect a fracture and seek further assessment. If the pain subsides, a sprain of the joint can be suspected.
  • Has your toe changed shape? A complete fracture could change the shape of your toe, but an incomplete fracture will not. The same can be said about a dislocation of the toe joints. Whilst there is no definitive sign of what has happened, the changed shape of the toe should be investigated to ascertain whether a fracture or a dislocation has occurred.
  • Is the toe still swollen a week after the injury? The small size of toes can be deceptive, however if there is obvious swelling with discomfort on touching of the joints, a fracture should be investigated.
  • Is your nail bruised? Nails are easily bruised if direct trauma is applied to them due to the presence of capillaries near the surface of the soft tissue. A severely bruised or lifted nail could indicate hidden damage to the nail plate which would need further assessment.
  • Is your toe bleeding? A small bleed due to a skin break is often not concerning but a moderate and continuous bleed could indicate a deep wound. These need to be treated by a podiatrist to avoid secondary infection.
  • Does the bruised, swollen toe hurt a lot with pressure from shoes or with walking? This could be the sign of a fracture or extensive damage to the surrounding soft tissue and/or joint line.


When Should You See a Podiatrist?

You should visit the emergency room if there are open wounds with bleeding and drainage (compound fracture); a cold, tingling numbness in the toes; blue or gray-colored skin near the injury; or an obvious deformity. However, if you feel that you do not require emergency treatment, then you should visit a podiatrist so they can assess the degree of injury and discuss what you need to do to encourage speedy recovery. If a podiatrist suspects a fracture, they will refer you for an x-ray and taping maybe required to stabilize the toe.


How Is A Broken Toe Treated, And How Long Does It Take To Heal?

It could be up to three months before your toe returns to normal. However, a fractured toe can also remain larger in size for the remainder of a person’s life. Resting, icing (up to10 minute intervals) and elevating are good first steps to treat the injury yourself. From there, a podiatrist can splint or tape the toe to keep it in a fixed position while it heals. Often, a post-op shoe is recommended to limit the possibility of further or recurring injury whilst stabilizing the foot during recovery. In extreme cases of fractures or dislocations, casting or surgery may be needed to put the toe back into place. In the future, you can benefit from wearing soft closed-in slippers around the house to protect your feet from injury.

If you, or anyone you know has had troubles with stubbed or suspected fractured toes, make an appointment to see one of our podiatrist for a comprehensive assessment that will get you back on your feet happy and pain free. Also like and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for regular news, blogs like these and upcoming promotions and competitions.


Dr Vanessa Hadchiti (Podiatrist)