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Toe pain

There are lots of causes of toe pain. You can usually ease the pain yourself. But see a GP if the pain does not improve.

How to ease toe pain yourself

If you see a GP about toe pain, they'll usually suggest trying these things:

Do

  • rest and raise your foot when you can

  • put an ice pack (or bag of frozen peas) wrapped in a towel on your toe for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours

  • wear wide comfortable shoes with a low heel and soft sole

  • take paracetamol

  • buddy strap a broken toe – put a small piece of cotton wool or gauze between your sore toe and the next toe, and use tape to loosely strap it up (do not do this for a big toe or a badly broken toe)

  • try regular gentle stretching exercises

Don’t

  • do not take ibuprofen for the first 48 hours after an injury

  • do not walk or stand for long periods

  • do not wear high heels or tight pointy shoes

A pharmacist can help with toe pain

If you have toe pain, a pharmacist can advise you about:

  • the best painkiller to take
  • insoles and pads for your shoes
  • treatments for common skin and nail problems
  • if you need to see a GP

Video: exercises to reduce toe pain

This video demonstrates exercises that can help reduce toe pain.

Media last reviewed: 17 April 2019
Media review due: 17 April 2022
See exercise video safety information

The exercises in this video are suitable for most people. They are general exercises only and are not aimed at treating any specific cause of pain or condition.

Get advice from a GP or health professional before trying it, especially if:

  • you have any concerns about your health
  • you are not sure if the exercises are suitable
  • you have any pre-existing health problems or injuries, or any current symptoms

Stop the exercise immediately and get medical help if you feel any pain or feel unwell.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • pain in your toe is stopping you doing normal activities
  • the pain is getting worse or keeps coming back
  • the pain has not improved after treating it at home for 2 weeks
  • you have diabetes and foot pain – foot problems can be more serious if you have diabetes
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
Information:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: how to contact a GP

It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Find out about using the NHS during COVID-19

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

  • you have badly hurt your big toe
  • you're in severe pain
  • you feel faint, dizzy or sick from the pain
  • you have any tingling or loss of sensation in your foot
  • your toe is pointing at an odd angle
  • you heard a snap, grinding or popping noise at the time of injury
  • you have difficulty moving your toes or you cannot walk

These might be signs of a badly broken toe after an injury.

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

Causes of toe pain

A sore toe is often caused by exercising too much or wearing shoes that are too tight.

Your symptoms might also give you an idea of what's causing your toe pain.

Some of the possible causes of toe pain.
Symptoms Possible cause
Pain or swelling around the nail, nail curls into the toe Ingrown toe nail
Hard bony lump near the big toe Bunion
Pain, tingling and numbness when you're cold or stressed, toes can change colour Raynaud's or chilblains
Pain, swelling, red or bruised toe, hurts to walk Broken toe
Sudden pain, stiffness, red or hot swollen skin around the toe joint Gout
Information:

Do not worry if you're not sure what the problem is.

Follow the advice on this page and see a GP if the pain does not get better in 2 weeks.

Page last reviewed: 4 March 2022
Next review due: 4 March 2025