NHS website

Broken toe

Find out about the symptoms of a broken toe, when you should get medical advice, and how to look after it at home.

22 January 2019

Introduction

A broken toe can be painful, but you don't usually need to go to hospital. There are things you can do to treat it at home.

Check if you have a broken toe

You may have broken your toe if it's:

  • red or bruised
  • painful and swollen
  • difficult to walk on

Don't worry if you're not sure if it's broken or just bruised, treatment is usually the same for both.

Go to an urgent treatment centre or A&E if:

  • you think you've broken your big toe
  • your toe is pointing out at an odd angle
  • the bone is sticking out of your toe
  • you have a bad cut or wound after injuring your toe
  • there was a snap, grinding or popping noise at the time of injury
  • you have severe pain
  • you have any tingling or loss of sensation in your toe or foot
  • it's your child that has hurt or broken their toe

You may need further treatment in hospital such as a boot, cast or surgery.

Find an urgent treatment centre ↗

What you can do about a broken toe

Doctors will usually suggest you treat a broken toe at home first if:

  • it's not your big toe
  • the bone isn't sticking out of your foot
  • your toe isn't pointing at an odd angle
  • there is no wound on your toe

Broken toes usually heal within 4 to 6 weeks, but it can sometimes take several months.

Do

  • take ibuprofen and paracetamol for the pain and swelling
  • rest your foot and keep it raised
  • hold an ice pack (or bag of frozen peas) wrapped in a towel on your toe for up to 20 minutes every few hours
  • wear wide, comfortable shoes with a low heel
  • avoid walking around as much as possible
  • strap up your broken toe – put a small piece of cotton wool or gauze between your sore toe and the toe next to it, then tape them together to support the sore toe

Don't

  • do not strap up your toe if it's pointing out at an odd angle or you've hurt your big toe – get medical advice
  • do not put ice directly on your skin
  • do not walk or stand for long periods
  • do not wear tight, pointy shoes
  • do not play any sports like football, rugby or hockey for 6 weeks or until the pain eases
  • do not try and treat your child's toe – take them to an urgent treatment centre or A&E

You can ask a pharmacist about:

  • the best painkiller to take
  • what you need to strap up your toe
  • if you need to see a GP

See a GP if:

  • the pain and swelling hasn't started to ease after 2 to 3 days
  • it still hurts to walk on after 6 weeks
  • you have diabetes – foot problems can be more serious if you have diabetes

They may send you for an X-ray to see if you need any further treatment.