Can You Run with a Broken Toe? The Complete Guide

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Can you run with a broken toe? If you’re looking for the complete answer, then you have come to the right place.

Runners are no strangers to the aches and pains that come with logging the miles.

In fact, injury may sideline even the most serious athlete for weeks, even months, at a time.

But what about a broken toe?

Typically, a broken toe doesn’t require emergency care, but just to err on the side of caution, you’ll be better off consulting your doctor, just to make sure.

In the meantime, let’s find out more about how to manage a broken toe and whether you can run on it or not, then keep on reading.

Why The Toes Are Important

The foot is a complex structure of bones, tendons, muscles, and other soft issues. Of the 26 bones within your foot, 19 are phalanges—toe bones—and metatarsal bones—the long bones in your midfoot.

Your toes are the first contact point with the ground. They support and stabilize your foot during the gait cycle, as well as generating the propulsion for every step you take forward.

While every toe matters, it’s the big toe that takes the majority of the brunt.

Also known as the hallux, the big toe assists with propulsion—what’s known as the push—as well as shock absorption on each walking—and running—step.

It’s also a big stabilizer. The big toe might be in charge of roughly 80 percent of the stability in your foot.

For these reasons, breaking one of your toes—especially the big one—can be more than a simple nuisance, especially if pain-free training is one of your goals.

By logging the miles (and trying to mask the pain away with OTC drugs), you’ll only make things worse, and you don’t want that.

What Is A Broken Toe?

This injury happens when one or more of the toe bones is broken after an injury. Accidents such as dropping a heavy object on your toe or stubbing it hard enough may cause a fracture in the bones of the toes, mainly the phalanges and metatarsals.

The fracture may be hairline or, in more serious cases, full breaks with an avulsion fracture.

Not all bone fractures are traumatic, though. In fact, they can also be stress fractures, which is a common injury among runners.

As you log in the miles, you’re also putting a lot of stress on the foot. Over time, this may lead to a stress fracture, causing the toe bone to break. Stress fractures are common in runners who do lots of endurance training and/or those who quickly ramp up weekly training load.

Here’s the good news, though. Most cases of broken toes can patch up in a matter of weeks with non-invasive, simple methods.

The Main Symptoms

Pay attention to the following symptoms if you suspect having broken one of your toes.

  • Tenderness and intense pain (with/without wearing shoes), especially during weight-bearing
  • Swelling in and around the affected area
  • Stiffness
  • Post-trauma nail injury
  • Discolorations typically from severe bruising under the skin
  • Visual deformity of the toe or even protrusion
  • Crepitation during movement
  • Numbness

Should you get an X-ray to make sure? It’s up to you and your doctor.

Can you Run on A Broken Toe?

Although broken toes are not serious medical emergencies, running through them is never a good idea.

When you break a toe, walking,  even standing, may be difficult. The pain is typically severe enough to force you to alter your gait. This, in turn, may cause other problems, such as ankle sprains or knee pain.

Still insist on running? Then check which toe is broken.

  • If you’re injured or broken one of the three middle toes,

you could try buddy taping (as explained below) and can likely run relatively pain-free without making your symptoms worse.

  • Have you broken your little toe?

Although it might seem trivial, the small toe is key for running as it does most of the work during the push-off phase of the running gait. Therefore, you’re better off resting it unless you want to make things harder than they’ve to be.

  • Have you broken the big toe?

Then avoid any type of weight-bearing activity—running is no exception. In fact, you’ll be lucky if you can even get your foot into your running shoe.

How Fast To Return To Running?

The answer is : depends.

How fast you could return to running after breaking a toe depends drastically on how early and how well you manage the injury.

Most cases of a broken toe may take roughly four to six weeks to heal, depending on the severity of the injury.

But as a rule, wait at least until it has been adequately assessed by your doctor and treated to a point where you can weight bear on the affected foot without pain.

If you still feel pain in the toe, more healing time is required.

Consult Your Doctor

If you worry about having it broken, consult your doctor or podiatrist.  This injury may cause a lot of pain as well as limit movement. Therefore, it should be treated as soon as possible.

Broken toes can be broadly broken (no pun intended) down into either minor or severe factors.

Signs of a minor fracture include:

  • Swelling
  • Throbbing pain
  • Bruising of the skin and toenail
  • Inability to move the toe pain-free.

Severe toe fracture manifest as the broken toe appearing completely crooked or disfigured.

In some cases, you might also experience an open bleeding wound at the site of the injury as well as numbness or tingling in the injured toe.

Say No To Drugs

Don’t try to drown your pain with drugs.

If the affected area hurts, stop. The last thing you want when recovering from a broken toe is to make things worse or prolong healing.

Furthermore, some doctors will use the pain as the diagnosis marker to assess severity. Pain that disappears all at once may blur the diagnosis.

What’s more?

Using NSAIDS and running may cause a host of other complications like harming your liver.

The Healing Process

Here’s the good news. Even though a broken toe requires attention, it usually doesn’t take a lot of effort to heal it.

Usually, your physician will simply tape the broken toe to assist with healing (more on this later).

In severe cases, a broken toe may require a cast or boot for support and complete immobilization.

Surgery is needed in rare cases.

Rest

The moment you suspect a broken toe, rest it as much as possible and avoid any type of weight-bearing.

Take a few weeks off high-impact exercises and consider getting a splint or cast to prevent any extra movement of the toe bones.

If you can fit your foot into your shoes, go for shoes that have low heel drop. This should help keep some of the pressure off of the broken while it heals.

Not only can undue stress make your pain worse, but it also hinders your toe recovery or, worse yet, make your toe heal improperly.

Apply Ice

Apply ice to the affected toe for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, three to four times a day. I’d recommend using an ice pack or towel to protect your skin from the ice.

Soothe The Pain

In cases of severe pain, try taking aspirin or ibuprofen.

This should help reduce the swelling and limit the bruising, which is a good thing if you ask me.

But, again, and I hate to sound like a broken record, don’t try to run through the pain.

Elevate

One of the best things you can do to speed up healing is to elevate your foot higher than your heart level. This helps reduce swelling as well as keep fluid from pooling or draining.

Tape The Broken Toe

To soothe pain, try reinforcing the affected toe by taping it together with the one beside in what’s known as buddy taping.

Here’s how to do it.

Determine the affected toe, then which one you’re going to tape.

Most experts recommend taping toes that are similar in shape and size but to never tape two affected toes together (the blind cannot lead the blind and all that).

Begin by gently pulling the injured toe to the one beside it. Then while using gauze or medical tape, lightly wrap it around both, so they’re now joined loosely together.

To prevent blisters, place a cotton ball between the toes. For more support, consider using a popsicle stick as a splint.

Keep in mind that though toe taping works well for managing broken toes, it might also decrease blood flow, cause a loss of joint motion, or even lead to an infection—when used improperly

Therefore, if you suffer from any discomfort or pain after taping your toe, get rid of the tape immediately.

What’s more?

Avoid using this method if you have a condition such as peripheral arterial disease or diabetes since poor circulation may cause tissue death or what’s known as necrosis.

Protective Footwear

Consider using protective footwear for toe breaks such as walker braces, boots, casts, and stiff-bottomed post-operative shoes.

Consult Your Doctor

If pain hasn’t partly subsided within two to three days, you find it hard to bear weight on the affected foot or are unable to slide your foot into your normal shoes, then get checked by a physician.

Although most cases of broken toes heal without any invasive tools, in some rare cases, chronic complications may occur.

How Long It Takes To Heal?

When it comes to properly heal the injured too, resting takes priority.

Eventually, you want the pain to subside, and you don’t want to feel it when you walk or run.

The healing period of a broken toe is roughly four to six weeks, depending on the severity of the break. In serious cases where the affected toe develops an infection or requires surgery, recovery can take up to two months or longer.

During the recovery period, consider cross-training with low-impact exercises that won’t hurt your feet, like cycling, swimming, strength training, and yoga.

Shoe Lacing For Pain Relief

The way you lace your shoes can also affect your injury.

The best measure is to replace the show to reduce stress around the toes.

One common technique is to thread up through the first hole on the bottom with a ladder to the next hole.

This method lifts the toe box to give your toe some room and allow for the natural curvature of the foot.  Diagonal lacing also works well for preventing black toenails while running.

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