We know how the thrill of running and other forms of exercise can feel. You’re out there. You’re busting up the trail or court. You feel like an unstoppable force!
Then that unstoppable force meets an immovable object—like the table leg before you even get out the door.
A stubbed toe can be a real showstopper. It’s like your toe took all your motivation and decided to trade it for a hefty dose of pain instead.
Even so, some of the more determined among us might still want to get out and get moving, sports injury or not. Is it really a good idea to be active after a toe has received a good whack, though? That might depend on the situation.
Just How Bad is It?
Just because your toe hurts like the dickens doesn’t necessarily mean it’s broken. But then it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not broken, either.
A stubbed toe might be a more complicated injury than it first looks, so it’s important to be a bit cautious and mindful of your toe’s condition. If you suspect your toe is broken, you will want to call us as soon as possible, and certainly not go out on a jog!
Here are some signs that your toe might not just be stubbed, but broken as well:
- Your toe is very red and bruised.
- The toe is extremely painful. (You will likely be in a lot of pain right when it happens, of course, but the pain of a broken toe will be more prominent and not tend to lessen after a couple days.)
- It is difficult to walk on the toe. Wearing shoes may also be extremely difficult.
- The toe is stiff, swollen, and hot to the touch.
- Your toe looks deformed in any way.
- The toenail is split or bleeding.
- The skin tone changes from red or pink to blue or grey.
If you have any of the symptoms above, it would be a good idea to give us a call and let us know what’s going on. We might recommend that you come in and have an X-ray to determine whether your toe is, in fact, broken.
Sometimes, what might feel or look like a fracture is really just a bad sprain. These will tend to start to improve after a few days.
What If My Toe Is Broken?
The good news is that a broken toe typically does not take a lot of effort to fix. Very rarely does anyone have to undergo surgery to treat their toe.
If the bones of the toe have shifted during the fracture, we will likely have to manipulate it to set the pieces back in their proper places. This is called “reduction,” and again typically doesn’t include having to cut open the toe. The toe will be properly numbed first before we do this.
Once a broken toe is properly set, it must still be given time to rest and heal. For more minor breaks, taping the toe to its neighbor (aka “buddy taping”) can be an effective means of immobilizing the injured toe.
This sort of taping can be performed at home after you see us. We will tell you this in the office too, but be sure to have a piece of gauze between the two toes you tape together, to avoid friction damage between them. If your toe starts to hurt or swell, you might have wrapped too tightly and need to readjust.
In some cases, we might also provide a post-surgical shoe to accommodate your toe. These shoes have a stiff bottom for support and immobilization, but also a soft top that closes and fastens easily. This provides your toe more room while still keeping it from flexing too much.
In cases where there are concerns the fragments of your toe won’t stay together, we may opt for a walking cast.
A broken toe will typically take about 4-6 weeks to heal. You will very likely have restricted movement and be required to maintain your cast or taping, but these may gradually be loosened or removed based on our recommendations.
Icing your toe and keeping your foot elevated above the level of your heart can help with pain relief and reducing swelling. You might also be prescribed medications to assist with that.
Can I Still Run with a Broken Toe?
We’re afraid that’s a big “no” from us, chief—at least during the first part of recovery.
Trying to run with a broken toe—even if it’s just the little toe—can complicate your recovery and even lead to worse problems. And, needless to say, it’s not a fun time, either.
If you add stress to a broken toe, you increase your risk of breaking it even further. While a broken toe is usually simple enough to heal with minimal interaction, you don’t want to risk the need for further intervention by shifting the bones fragments out of place or even getting one to poke through the skin!
Having your toe heal properly and without interference is also going to reduce your risks of developing chronic pain in that toe through the future. A broken toe that goes untreated or is not treated properly is more likely to develop osteoarthritis as you age. That is not something you want to have to deal with in your workout routines, if you can avoid it.
Patience will be your best ally in recovery. Having to avoid impact does not mean you can’t focus exercise in other ways, and we can help you find ways to cross-train and even strengthen your toe as it recovers.
May Your Path Be Free of Obstacles
Stubbing your toe is never fun, but we are here to help when it’s a particularly bad slam.
If you feel your toe (or any other part of your foot) is not improving with a couple days of home care, it’s time to give Advanced Foot and Ankle a Call at (208) 731-6321. Our offices in Twin Falls and Burley will help you get back to full motion as quickly and safely as possible.