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Broken toe

A broken toe can be painful, but you do not 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
Information:

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

Urgent advice: Get help from NHS 111 if:

  • you have a bad cut or wound after injuring your toe
  • you have severe toe pain
  • your child has hurt or broken their toe

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

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

You could also go to your nearest urgent treatment centre.

What we mean by severe pain
Severe pain:
  • always there and so bad it's hard to think or talk
  • you cannot sleep
  • it's very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress
Moderate pain:
  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress
Mild pain:
  • comes and goes
  • is annoying but does not stop you doing daily activities

Immediate action required: Go to A&E if:

  • you think you have broken your big toe
  • your toe is pointing out at an odd angle
  • the bone is sticking out of your toe
  • there was a snap, grinding or popping noise at the time of injury
  • you feel tingling in your toe or foot or it feels numb

If you cannot get to A&E by yourself, call 999 for an ambulace.

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 is not sticking out of your foot
  • your toe is not pointing at an odd angle
  • there's no wound on your toe

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

Do

  • take ibuprofen or paracetamol for the pain and swelling

  • rest your foot and keep it raised

  • hold an ice pack (or a 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 have 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 to treat your child's toe – take them to an urgent treatment centre or A&E

A pharmacist can help with a broken toe

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

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • pain and swelling has not started to ease 2 to 3 days after you injured your toe
  • it still hurts to walk 6 weeks after injuring your toe
  • you have diabetes and have injured your toe – 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.

Page last reviewed: 06 May 2022
Next review due: 06 May 2025