Toeing The Line: Three Myths About Broken Toes

Your feet are easy to take for granted unless you sustain an injury. One of the most common issues with feet are broken toes, which can happen if you:

  • stub a toe against something
  • drop a heavy object on your front foot
  • suffer a hairline fracture from a repetitive action, such as practicing a sport

For something so common, a lot of myths surround broken toes and their treatment. Here are the facts behind three common incorrect beliefs about toes and how they heal.

1. You can't move your toe if it is broken.

Actually, you generally can move your toe if it is broken, especially if the break is a hairline or stress fracture. In fact, broken toes can be surprisingly hard to diagnose, as they may not be especially painful or have bruising and swelling. If you've sustained an injury to your toes or have any pain at all, it's a good idea to check into the problem before it gets worse.

2. There's nothing a doctor can do for a broken toe; it just needs time to heal.

Depending on the type of break you've sustained, you may need a podiatrist's care to position the toe correctly.

It's true that you usually cannot put a cast on a broken toe. One way that the doctor can stabilize a broken toe is to splint it to the nearby toes. This is also called "buddy taping," and you can learn how to do it so you can change the splint as needed. The toes are padded with gauze and then taped together; you'll need to keep the padding dry so it doesn't cause skin damage and change it daily for at least one week.

For a compound fracture, where there are multiple breaks, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove bone fragments and straighten the toe. Full foot casts may be needed in such situations.

3. You won't suffer any long-term problems from a broken toe.

As mentioned above, you may need a doctor to review the toe injury and determine the best way to treat it. If you let a broken toe go untreated, you may experience the following:

  • Shoes no longer fit the same way, and it may be harder to find comfortable footwear.
  • Arthritis may develop in the toe joint because the place where the two toe bones meet doesn't heal back correctly.
  • Running, walking and other activities may cause pain.

If you suspect that you have broken your toe, whether there is bruising and swelling or simply chronic pain, you should make an appointment with your podiatrist. He or she can keep that minor inconvenience from becoming a major problem for mobility or activity. For more information, contact Foundation Chiropody podiatrist or a similar organization.