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How to Treat an Injured or Broken Toe by Buddy-Taping

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How to Tape a Broken Toe

Broken toes can be extremely painful, hurt for several weeks, and make it difficult to walk and wear shoes. Since only the big toe can be casted if it has been broken, buddy-taping can be beneficial in terms of allowing the toe to heal in a straight position. This will make walking more comfortable—and reduce swelling and pain. Follow these easy steps to buddy-tape a broken or injured toe.

How Do I Know My Toe Is Broken?

Several types of injuries may cause toe fractures:

  • Stress Fracture: A toe that becomes fractured after repetitive movements or actions, such as sports or an occupation.
  • Trauma or Injury: Stubbing or dropping a heavy object on the toes that causes a fracture.
  • Hyper-Extension: A fall or a trip that forces the weight of the body on the toes and bends them backwards.

Broken toes have discolored and bruised skin, are swollen at the fracture, are painful to the touch, and are sensitive to movement.

Signs and Symptoms

After the injury, you may experience stiffness, swollen, red or purplish bruising around the fracture of the toe. The toe may look crooked, twisted, or appear deformed from swelling. Depending on the type of injury, the toenail may have a collection of blood underneath it, and the toenail may begin to separate and fall off after a few days. Your toenail will grow back.

When to Seek Medical Care

  • If you suspect the big toe is broken, you will need a cast placed by a doctor to ensure the bone heals straight and minimizes residual arthritis later on
  • If the pain of the toe gets worse instead of better with unrelieved pain from over-the-counter medications
  • Increased swelling with dark-colored skin around the affected toe and severe pain. This may indicate a blood vessel has been ruptured and continues to bleed internally
  • You have an open fracture, which means you can see the bone through the skin, or there is drainage or bleeding near the affected toe

Apply Ice to the Broken Toe

Place a moist hand towel in a plastic bag and place it in the freezer, or place ice cubes in water in a bowl big enough to accommodate your foot comfortably. Place an ice pack or soak the affected foot in cold water for about 20 minutes every hour or when necessary. Do not freeze the skin longer than 20 minutes to reduce the chance of frostbite.

Elevate the Broken Toe Above the Heart

Swelling of the broken toe increases pain by causing congestion around the injured bone and applying constant pressure. Elevate the foot on pillows, a chair, or by any means to reduce swelling and pain. You will require fewer pain medications, heal faster, and suffer with less soreness and tenderness on movement.

Discoloration of a broken toe

Discoloration of a broken toe

Place gauze or padding between the broken toe and the next larger toe

Place gauze or padding between the broken toe and the next larger toe

Use a band-aid or tape to comfortably tape the toes together

Use a band-aid or tape to comfortably tape the toes together

Identify the Broken or Injured Toe

The swollen, discolored, or deformed toe is most likely the toe that might be broken. Check if you can move it voluntarily. If you can't move it, is it from pain, or is the bone broken completely? If the toe bone is no longer attached, seek help from the emergency room. If the toe is completely detached from a break in the bone, you may not be able to set it correctly, it may heal wrong, and you will eventually need surgery to re-break and re-set the toe bone.

Always Tape the Broken Toe to the Next Largest Toe

Create a splint with a piece of gauze, cotton, or cloth wrapped around an ice cream stick to set the broken toe in a straight position for healing. Place the splint between the broken toe and the next largest toe.

Tape the Broken Toe and Buddy Toe Together

Wrap the broken toe and buddy toe with band-aids, surgical tape, or cloth tape. Do not use string, rubber bands, or anything else that would cut off circulation. It is very important that you secure the toes well, but observe the color and pay attention to tingling or "pins and needles" in the taped toes. If these signs and symptoms occur, loosen the tape and reapply until the circulation is unaffected, but the toes are secure.

Pain Medications

Over-the-counter pain medications should work as directed to ease the pain in your broken toe. The best defense is elevating the foot, applying ice, and resting the foot as much as possible.

Toe Buddy-Taping at a Glance

Steps to care for a broken toe

Prepare Toe for TapingTape Broken Toe to Next Largest ToeSigns and Symptoms

Broken toe is discolored, deformed, swollen or painful

Trim an ice cream stick and cover with guaze or cotton into a splint

Place the splint between the broken and buddy toe

Observe the taped toes for signs and symptoms of impaired circulation

Observe for color changes in taped toes or tingling and "pins and needles"

Remove tape and re-tape with lose tape but secured toes

Elevate affected foot above the heart

Reduce pain and swelling with foot up on pillows in bed or sitting up

Use a crutch or special shoe for walking

Apply ice or ice bath for 20 mins on and 30 minutes off

Reduce pain and swelling without causing frostbite

Take over the counter pain meds as directed if needed

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This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Desiree on November 19, 2019:

Should I ice my fractured pinkie toe im new at this

Abdimanaan on August 05, 2017:

Who's about to kick a balloon but I actually hit my humidifier and my little toe is hurting really bad it's swollen it's red if I put pressure on it it hurts so what should I do

Eileen wallace on July 02, 2017:

I had my toe bleed and taped but wasnt told when to change the tape or if i even should. Ive been given a fracture appointment for 6 days time so do i leave it alone or retape it. Thank you kindly

Sandra Egan on July 25, 2016:

Thank you so much for all the good advice. At least I know I can do all these and wait it out. Very informative!!

owen on December 06, 2014:

Thank you for the info I broke my pinky toe yesterday and I seen this info and applied it to my foot

Samuil Hippi from Samoah on September 18, 2014:

Love the "Toe Buddy Taping at a Glance" chart! Very insightful article, I think it can really help people with broken toe! Keep up the good work eHealer!

Rick on February 07, 2014:

Nice advise.....IMG_0448.JPG took a slap-shot on my toe then put ice (actually snow) on it w/out realize might add frostbite. This is. 2 days later looks to be getting better. Very little pain so don't think broken. Thank u again for all the info!

mr-veg from Colorado United States on June 27, 2013:

That's an excellent first aid advice.. !! Voted up and sharing..

Deborah (author) from Las Vegas on December 19, 2012:

Epi, this means so much to me, you are a true writer and so creative. I really love your work, and am always on the lookout for your hubs. Thank you for your kind words, and everyone here is happy to send you warm wishes as well!

epigramman on December 19, 2012:

Obviously, Deborah, you can write about 'any' subject. I am quite astonished at the wide array on subjects on your page. I have a theory that more things in life can go wrong than right - lol - and your expertise always covers particular ailments and problems we may not necessarily think about - but they do happen - and preventive measures are a good way to ensure better quality living - and better quality living starts right here on your page - and you make it so with your world class writing and your ability to communicate the written word to your fans, friends and followers alike. You truly are the 'healer' and thank you so much to you and your friends for your support of my writing - I really can't do what I do without the inspiration of wonderful people like you - please say hello to everyone for me and I am sending warm wishes and good energy with my 2nd cup of coffee after night shift sleep at 2:18pm lake erie time canada

Deborah (author) from Las Vegas on December 18, 2012:

Thanks Paradise, I am so sorry about your aunt. I've broken my toes so many times it's amazing that I haven't had the same problem as your aunt. thanks for your great comments, and thanks for caring.

Paradise7 from Upstate New York on December 18, 2012:

OUCH! My elderly aunt has a lot of problems stemming from a broken toe. She walked on it for a few days before going to the doctor. It had to be re-broken and re-set, eventually. I'd say, go to the doctor, first, if you suspect the toe is broken.

EHealer, I'm so sorry about your poor toe! I hope it heals quickly and completely.

Deborah (author) from Las Vegas on December 16, 2012:

Hey ESP, I'm so sorry you "cringed." But you had the courage to read this hub! See, how brave you really are! Thanks for you comments, and I appreciate the pins!!

Deborah (author) from Las Vegas on December 16, 2012:

Thanks Glimmer, I have broken so many toes! In fact, that is my foot in the pictures, I broke my toe a few weeks ago! Always great to see you, and thanks for the pins!

Emilie S Peck from Minneapolis, MN on December 16, 2012:

Oh, this made me cringe, but the information was great. I've heard of buddy-taping, but never really knew how to do it before. Voted up and pinning. :)

Claudia Porter on December 16, 2012:

Great illustrations and hub! We could have used this a while ago when we thought our daughter had broken a toe. Shared and pinned!

Eiddwen from Wales on December 15, 2012:

So useful and thank you so much for sharing.


Deborah (author) from Las Vegas on December 14, 2012:

Hello Rajan, so nice to see you as always. Thanks for your support Rajan, see you soon!

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on December 14, 2012:

Hi Deborah,

This is certainy useful information on how to treat an injured or possibly broken toe and the way to tape it securely. Really enjoyed learning this.

Voted up, useful and shared for benefit.

Deborah (author) from Las Vegas on December 13, 2012:

LOl! :)

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on December 13, 2012:

A bit late but thanks anyway. Broke a toe at Tahoe. (And that wasn't meant to be a rhyme)

Deborah (author) from Las Vegas on December 13, 2012:

Hi Tips, many times a doctor can't do anything for a broken toe, except charge a few hundred dollars in the emergency room! Thanks for your support, you are a great friend!

tipstoretireearly from New York on December 13, 2012:

Helpful and practical steps to take, especially if a toe were to break in a situation where medical help isn't available--which is when things like this always seem to happen. I especially like the "at a glance" guide!

Deborah (author) from Las Vegas on December 13, 2012:

Thanks Crystal, Witch Hazel, great Idea! Thanks for adding your great ideas! See you soon at the hubs!!

Crystal Tatum from Georgia on December 13, 2012:

THis is very informative. I've had a broken toe before and I've always heard there's nothing you can really do. At least this provides some action to take. I also soaked mine in witch hazel to take away some of the soreness and bruising. Voted up and shared.

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