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

Jan 25th, 2011 by Amanda Strouse | 153 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.


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

  1. Dennis Lynch said:

    Please Note:

    Every toe injury can be different. Not at all treatments will work the same for every person so it is recommended to visit a doctor if you are worried about an injury.

    Doctors can help provide you with the resources to make a full and healthy recovery with no lasting side effects.


  2. mEGAN FIELD said:

    I was dancing in my room when my middle toe and my index toe hit off the door and i am now sitting on my bed checking my toes because on one of the toes i hit, it feels like a pulse with a bit of heat coming off it. i dont know whether it is broken or just bruised

  3. Lo said:

    I stubbed my toe on a rock at the beach and my entire toe nail immediately came off and I began bleeding. Since then I have been in quite a bit of pain. It is swollen, throbbing and feels as if there is a lot of pressure on my toe. I have been walking on my heel as it hurts to walk regularly.