Broken Toes Vs. Stubbed Toes – Symptoms, Treatment & When to See a Doctor

Jan 25th, 2011 by Amanda Strouse | 149 Comments So Far

You’re walking barefoot, focusing on what you need to get done, you step too close to a piece of furniture … and the next thing you know, you’re cursing it and grabbing your foot in pain.

It has happened to all of us.

Stubbing a little toe hurts as much as if it was run over by a bus because our feet are densely packed with nerve endings. We may question the severity of a stubbed toe, wondering if it’s broken after ten minutes of soreness. When it comes to your health and comfort, it’s best to ice and rest your toe after an injury or, better yet, to keep your feet protected at all times.

Each toe consists of many bones – there are a total of 26 bones and 33 joints in each foot/ankle. One quarter of the body’s bones are located in the feet. It’s easy to break a bone in the foot and foot care specialists commonly see people with toe/foot fractures.

Many of us wonder what to do with a broken toe and what the difference is between a broken toe and a stubbed toe. You don’t waste time and money seeing a doctor for a stubbed toe, but at the same token, you don’t want to overlook a broken toe and have the fracture heal incorrectly, creating a crooked appearance.


  • Trauma or injury, which can include stubbing a toe or putting heavy force on a toe
  • Prolonged repetitive movements


  • Hear a sound at the time of the break
  • “Pinpoint pain” which is pain at the place of impact at the time of the fracture and possibly for a few hours later. Often this pain goes away after several hours
  • Crooked or abnormal appearance of the toe
  • Bruising and swelling of the toe the next day
  • Bruising, discoloration of a nail
  • Blood or bone protrusions
  • “If you can walk on it, it’s not broken” is NOT true
  • Stress fracture (hairline break) cause swelling but sometimes not bruising and the pain could go away when resting, but returns when putting force on the toe


If the toe looks to be crooked or there is a bone protruding/out of place, it is recommended to see a doctor immediately. If the pain is severe and/or swelled for a prolonged period of time, it is recommended to see a doctor. If a fracture near a joint is left untreated, it can lead to arthritis.


Symptoms of a broken toe may last 8 to 10 weeks and take that long to heal.


If you suspect your toe is broken, do the following until you can see a doctor:

  • Rest – don’t put weight on it
  • Elevation – to decrease swelling and pain, keep the foot raised above the level of the heart
  • Ice – put ice or something ice-cold in a plastic bag and apply it to the injury for 15 to 20 minutes every one to two hours

What your doctor may have you do:

  • Splinting to keep it in a fixed position
  • Taping the fractured toe to another toe
  • Wearing rigid or stiff-soled shoes (a post-op shoe) to protect the toe and keep it positioned properly
  • Depending on the location and severity of the fracture, it may need surgery or to be put back in place and then splinted or casted


Don’t walk around in your house barefoot. Wear orthopedic slippers to protect your feet at all times and prevent broken toes.


149 Comments on “Broken Toes Vs. Stubbed Toes – Symptoms, Treatment & When to See a Doctor”

  1. Megan said:

    Recently a day ago i stubbed my toe on the corner of the wall. It’s bruised and swollen and I can’t put pressure on it and can’t walk on it so I have been hopping around all day. I can’t point it barely but that’s about it. I have volleyball tryouts in 5 days. Will I be able to tryout ? Is it a sprain or broken !

  2. Lisa said:

    I lost my balance and came dowm bending a couple toes back so far my pinky toe spit open bad enough I needed 3 stitches. Now I can’t bend my last 2 toes or move them. I’m also having problems walking. Could I have damaged something in my foot and if so what.

  3. elisa said:

    Hi my name is Elisa . and yesterday I hit my little toe with great force . and now its really swollen and separate from my other toes . when I move it it really hurts . can it be broken .?

  4. Elisa said:

    I fell down some stairs 11 days ago and landed awkwardly on my big toe. I immediately did RICE, but it was painful to put pressure on. Now it no longer hurts to walk, but feels uncomfortable if I bend it to extremes with pressure. I am a pointe dancer and am concerned I might have caused damage to my toe. Should I get it looked at or will the irritation go away soon?

  5. Anne said:

    Hi, the strangest thing, i cant remember hurting my toe but fot the last three days when i walk and only in certain steps do i feel excruciating pain in my middle toe. I have looked at it, wiggled it and moved it around with my fingers “no Pain” but walk on my foot its excruciating and makes no sense, and again only certain steps. Any Idea??

  6. Reina said:

    I stubbed my pinky toe this evening and immediately noticed it was bleeding and the nail was split down the middle and toward the right side all the way down to the base. Half of the nail already fell off and it’s bleeding slightly so I cleaned it with peroxide and bandaged it. Does this sound like it could possibly be fractured? I’m also worried about the bleeding cause I am prediabetic.

  7. Nick said:

    I’m 14 and i was playing around in the swimming pool and i jumped up in the 4 foot point in the pool, and when i came down, it felt like i just broke my toe, but i though it was just a stubbed toe because i get those a lot and nothing has ever been like this before. It swelled up a little bit and then stayed like that ever since i stubbed it in the pool yesterday. It is a little purple on my nail where the nail and skin meet, and the pain is mostly on the nail area, not the whole toe. I don’t know what to do because usually this pain is never like this when I stub my toe, and I’m really concerned. Do you think it might be broken? Please let me know asap.

  8. Nick said:

    Oh and also, it hurts when i walk and I can’t run. I have been icing it all last night and this morning on and off for 20 min.

  9. Jackie said:

    Hi, I’m Jackie I’m 13 years old and this morning around 7:15am, I hit my 3 little toes (the middle ones) on my hurts when I tried to walk but when I rest it and the pain goes is also swollen.Is it broken? What should I do?

  10. Nichole said:

    I hurt my toe next to my big toe 10 weeks ago and didn’t know if it was sprained or broken. I still cannot bend it all the way without pain and it is still swollen and slightly bruised. For every day walking it only hurts a little, but it hurts worse when I try to walk on my treadmill. Can a doctor do anything at this point?

  11. caroline said:

    Two weeks ago I tripped and banged my foot on the leg of the sofa. It felt like the third toe and the little toe split apart. My foot was bruised, but no swelling, but I was unable to bend the third toe or the little toe. I followed advice from colleagues and taped the third toe to the second toe, but I am still in a hell of a lot of pain. I wear really soft slip ons to travel to and from work but even they hurt and I have to have the shoes off all day. When I walk it’s agony yet there has been no swelling. I still can’t bend them and if I try to put pressure on them it really hurts. My family keep saying I should see the GP because it’s still so painful but I’m not sure. What do you think?

  12. Linda said:

    On Sunday I slammed my toe into the couch I heard a crack it hurt really bad I even started crying from the pain then the next day I have a line that was a dark bruise and on the top of my foot near my toes it was all bruised but my ringtone is the main one that hurts really bad I can’t move it I can barely walk on that foot which is the left foot and still today being Wednesday I was on my feet all day and now my left foot is swollen what do I do

  13. Michael said:

    Hi, I’m 14 years old and I hurt my toe next to my pinkie toe and it hurts to walk on it or move my toes next to it, it has two purple bruises on either side of the toe and a big light brown circular bruise on my foot should I see a doctor?

  14. KAitlin said:

    Okay so yesterday someone kicked me and I kicked them back and I used to be in karate so I kicked harder than I expected and I forgot if you kick with your toes they might break and so I kicked him without thinking and IT HURT REALLY BAD and so now today it still hurts sort of and it’s bruised but I can still walk on it, and without thinking I still ran in gym for 15 minutes, is it broken? And will it get worse?

  15. Kyle freedman said:


    I stubbed my pinky toe (this is 2 hours afterward) on a door frame bear foot.The moment after I noticed it was extremely swollen and the nail is cracked. Could an impact this hard on a pinky toe possibly fracture or break it?

    Thank you

  16. Adrian said:

    Hi . two days ago I stubed my toe while playing soccer. I stubed my toe so hard that I broke my nail off. Every time I step my toe starts hurting .now my toe seems fatter the my other toe .

  17. John said:

    I stubbed my little toe 5 days ago and the injured foot is swollen. I can’t wear shoes so I wear sandals all the time. I sit most of the day but the swelling is getting worse. Do you have any suggestions. Thank you

  18. KITKAT said:

    Hi so I kind of did the same thing full force making a left hand turn pinky toe caught dresser two weeks later it still hurts I’m getting fat because of my broken toe I think it’s broken and I’m really upset that administrator can’t answer anybody’s questions so should I go see a doctor thank you

  19. CASEY said:

    Hi i stubbed my to rather hard and it was a sharp pain that went up my leg and i walled it off and through out the day it was painfull but i thought it was just jammed when i went to go to bed my toe got swollen and stiff i couldnt move or tough it with out going into tears i buddy wrapped it and woke up this morning still cant move it but can kind or touch it and can kind of walk do you think broken or sprained either way im staying off it

  20. Kim said:

    My little toe is still purple after stubbing it 2 months ago. Is this ok? Does it just take a while. May have broken it. The pain is only rare when I use it too much.

  21. EMMA said:

    So at around 5:00pm today, I was just walking around my living room. I took a sharp turn and stubbed my pinky toe on the corner of my coffee table. It hurt inatantly , and I’m not sure if there was a cracking sound, I was more focused on the pain. It hurt and it was a little red and swollen, but I stub my toe all the time, I’m really clumsy. I took a shower and it hurt to put very much pressure on my toe or keep it under the water. 4 hours later, it throbs when I sit down and it’s still painful, red, and swollen. I compared it to my other pinky toe and it is bigger and redder, but there isn’t any noticeable home out of place. i don’t know whether I should go to the doctor, my mom is tough about these kind of things. She grew up back in the older days and had many broken bones and stitches, I have never broken, sprained, fractured anything. So do you think it is broken, fractured, or just stubbed? Thanks in advance.

  22. EMMA said:

    Also, there was no visible bnrusing. Is it possible to break your toe if it isn’t bruised on the first day?

  23. adelso GALICIA said:

    Hi my is adelso and yesterday i was playing soccer with my cousins. Their was a sheet of nylon material covering the side of the porch, and the ball went their and then i kicked and didnt see a cinder block was there. I felt pain when i walked, later i sat down took off my shoe and sock to see what happened, i didnt see any diformities, i was able move the big toe just fine, and then the pain went away. This morning i saw my big toe and it was swollen, tried to move my toe with my hands but couldn’t move that much because it was swollen,i dont see any bruises on my toe or blackness on the toe nail, i put on a shoe and feels fine, i can walk ok but not perfectly, so is it sprained or broken, should i take care of my injury on my own or see a doctor?

  24. jennifer said:

    My last three toes got hit by a flying metal comb it made my toes bleed a lil where I got poked And my toes swelled up pretty bad it was about three days ago and the swelling has gone down idk if its broke there is no bruising but I did shatter the same toes before what should I do

  25. Kayla said:

    I hit my pinky toe pretty hard on my couch and after resting it, my toe seems to pop when moving it. Is it broken or jammed? I can’t seem to put any pressure on it but it doesn’t seem to be swelling too much. I have a very sharp pain new the base of my toe that just won’t go away. I’m not sure what to do about it. Any suggestions?

  26. mariah said:

    today i went to go up the stairs I was running and i fell really hard 5 min later my toe started to hurt and i was limping. it hurts a lot but i can walk on it and move my toes so i don’t know if its broken or bruised baddley? any suggestions?

  27. Melissa Kumler said:

    Hi Mariah – if you think it’s broken, I recommend going to see your doctor. If it’s just a stub, you can rest and ice it. Hope that helps!

  28. Melissa Kumler said:

    If you are still feeling pain, you should have your doctor check your toe to be sure it is not broken. Hope that helps!

  29. Hanna said:

    My toe started throbing after I had been tuning in pe and ran into a cement wall My toe is extremely swollen and u can’t put any pressure should I go to the doctor?


    Hi about three months ago I was running barefoot and tripped over a brick hitting my pinky toe. To this day its still purple and a little bit bigger than my other toe. There isn’t any discoloration of the nail so I don’t know if it’s broken or not.

  31. Billy said:

    I stubbed my little toe and and my foot swelled and went black and blue the next day . I assumed I broke it . The swelling and discoloration went away ,but my little toe still is swollen after two weeks . I stand all day at work ,so I am wondering if this is normal to be swollen during the healing process?

  32. Jen said:

    Over a year ago, I had injured my big toe by jamming it at work. It bruised around the base of my toe and was a little swollen and immensely painful for some time. My toenail turned colors and fell off. I never did seek any treatment because I assumed it was just an injury to the nail. Now ever since the injury this toe will pop and shoot strong pain for a couple minutes when extended much at all. It happens a lot when I’m walking barefoot, especially on an uneven surface where the toe is extended for balance. Now that it has been this long I’m questioning what could be wrong with it and if there’s anything that can be done. Any input is appreciated.

  33. hari said:

    I think i stubbed my toe on the sofa (my big toe), there is no bruising, red mark or anything, but it hurts when i apply pressure to it (it’s only been like this for like an hour), i don’t know if it’s stubbed or worse, and I can’t really visit doctors right now.

  34. Sharon said:

    Stubbed my toe about a week ago. It’s still swollen but I can massage it without much pain. Actually it feels good!. I’ve been icing when I can. No abnormal appearance or discoloration. Just the swelling.

    What should I do?

  35. Ali said:

    Crap man i stubbed my toe last night and it still hurts and now it is blue and it is purple where i hit it…my mom says i should pt wieght on it and stretch it out but im not so sure if thats a good idea…any suggestions?

  36. Tiana said:

    I was at work and I was picking up a table and it then fell on my foot through my boots, it of course, hurts, but not as I expected it to hurt. It’s swollen, but I don’t see any discoloration or anything else but I haven’t broken a bone before so I don’t know what to look for. What should I do?

  37. Teaghan said:

    Hi today around 2 I was running to my bed and hit my toe on the corner of my dresser. I don’t know if there was a cracking sound. It feels fine sometimes when I walk but if I move it the way I hit it. My toe hurts really bad… I don’t know if it is broken or just stubbed… Any ideas?

  38. Connie said:

    I rammed my toe into the door jamb as I was walking out of the bathroom. It immediately swelled and started bruising under the last 3 toes the next day. I waited about a week and got it xrayed. The xrayed showed swelling of the last two ties but no fracture. It has been 5-6 weeks and it is still twice the size of my other pinky toe, very painful, I cannot wear shoes. I have been keeping the two toes taped together and taking Naproxen, not sure what else to do with it. It is very painful!

  39. Vanessa said:

    Yesterday at gymnastics I was doing a drill for a skill and I was doing it on beam and whenever I tried to get my foot over the beam, I did it really fast and my pinky toe hit the beam really hard and I couldn’t walk for the rest of gym and it really hurts and I can walk but it hurts to point it or do anything else like run and stuff.

  40. Vanessa said:

    So what can I do to make it feel better by Monday? Today is Saturday

  41. claire said:

    When I went tomy sons room to read to him I went to sit beside him but sat on his foot toes facing up and squashed it. It was extremely painfull but he handled it and went to sleep after a while.
    He can walk on it but prolonged walking or running around makes it hurt again. Also if he puts pressure on it like pressing his big toe onto the floor hard. It has been five days now and is still the same..should I bring him for an x ray?

  42. Garcia said:

    Hi i am one who hates shoes and stub my toes all the time but two in particular arw giving me problems one i heard a crunch when i stubbed it and it hurts so much in the cold and the other just locked up on me and is a little swollen. I went to the doctor and he refused to take a look at my toes or even send me for an ex ray because he said hed only check my feet if i went to his office with my feet very swollen so i was sent home and told to just wear shoes. Can anybody give me advice on what i should do? Thanks!

  43. Amonica said:

    Friday ,I hit my toe on the ground and no I can barely walk and I have school tomorrow what do I do

  44. Rintoki said:

    Which one is it for me?
    I was walking several weeks ago when the tip of my right big toe got caught on nothing,
    then it just stayed stuck at that one spot while the rest of my body kept moving forward,
    following that my big toe bent forward ( downward, the normal way ),
    it completely bent forward more than the fat on my foot would normally allow.
    It hurt and I applied a cold pack to it,
    it was swelled for a few days afterwards.
    Ever since then I did normal daily procedures like normal,
    except that it still hurts when I try to bend it.
    It doesn’t bend like my good toe,
    and it hurts while bending.
    But there doesn’t seem to be any visual differences.
    So which one is it and what should I do?

  45. cOnrad said:

    Im Conrad from Jamaica.
    Almost two weeks ago, I hit my little to again the edge of a door while playing and running from a child. I walked away and in seconds i had to sit for about 15 minutes because of constant pain. That area of the foot was swollen for over a week. about 4 days now, swelling stopped but now im having a funny sensation and also constant pain. Only the toe is now slightly swollen. I can’t wear any hard shoe. It’s not dark, it’s not numb and just today i started feeling a bulge at the joint. Is this indication of a broken toe?

  46. Maggie said:

    Hi, I can’t remember when or how I hurt my big toe, but when I step on it it hurts really bad. There’s no swelling or bruising, but it hurts very much, what is it?

  47. Rachael said:

    I was walking in my house when I tripped over and three of my toes went forewords and they are swollen and bruised, what do I do?

  48. Mark Berg said:

    Hello. Approximately 3 weeks ago I hit my big toe straight on into a cement step, not 24 hours later I hit the same toe on the exact same spot of the cement step. The following couple of days it was swollen, the nail came loose & the entire nail bed became black& purple. It’s been about 3 weeks now& its been healing just fine. It’s now a deep pinkish color with some purple in it still. There’s no swelling however about 3 hours ago I began to get a sharp sudden pain on the top of my foot just about an inch up from my big toe. It isn’t severe but it’s irritating & now has become a slight ache. I’ve pressed on the area, it isn’t painful to touch but it’s still aching & seems to intermittently throb for a few moments here and there. I don’t know what it could be?

  49. UtErusshiFter502 said:

    You guys are all so strong willed. Jackie, I wish you the best in your recovery.

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