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Merck Manual

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Quick Facts

Broken Toe

(Toe Fracture)


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Feb 2021| Content last modified Feb 2021
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You can break any of the 2 or 3 tiny bones in your toes. All broken bones are considered fractures. For more information, see Overview of Broken Bones.

  • You usually break your toe when you stub it or drop something on it

  • You may have blood under your toenail

  • Doctors usually just tape your broken toe to the toe next to it

What causes a toe to break?

Toe fractures are often caused by:

  • A heavy object falling on your toe

  • Stubbing your toe by banging it against something hard like a piece of furniture or a step

What are the symptoms of a broken toe?

Symptoms include:

  • Painful, swollen toe

  • Discolored toenail from blood trapped underneath

A fracture of the big toe is more painful, usually has more swelling and bruising, and may cause problems with walking.

How can doctors tell if my toe is broken?

Doctors will examine your toe. X-rays aren't usually needed.

How do doctors treat a broken toe?

Doctors will:

  • Tape your broken toe to the toe next to it (this is called buddy taping) and have you keep your toes taped for several weeks

  • If blood is trapped under the toenail, make a small hole in your nail to drain it and ease pain

  • Have you wear comfortable shoes

Broken toes rarely need to be put back into place.

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