6 Important Sprained Toe Symptoms You Must Know

Oh no, hurt yourself again and don’t know if the injury is serious or not? Read on to find out all about sprained toe symptoms!1

6 Important Sprained Toe Symptoms

Damn, that corner of the wooden sofa, hit my toe on it again, but wait, why is it swelling and hurting so much?

Is it a strain or a sprain? People often get confused over this. Therefore it is crucial to understand sprained toe symptoms. This will help you identify the exact problem and to seek proper treatment.

When a ligament is stretched or torn, sprains are formed. This can happen because of an injury which affects your range of motion.

Similarly, when a muscle or tendon is injured, it is a strain. Overstretching of muscles2 or tendons causes strains, this happens commonly in the leg, back, or foot. It is pivotal to note the sprained toe symptoms for getting faster and more effective treatment.

Sprained Toe Symptoms

Understanding the sprained toe symptoms will help you differentiate between a strain and a fracture.

 1. Swelling

If there is a build-up of fluid around your toes, it indicates a sprain. You might feel heaviness or difficulty moving.

2. Bruising

When your toes are sprained, there is a chance of your capillaries getting damaged. You can notice discoloration on your toes, this commonly indicates a sprain.

3. Pain

If you feel pain around the area of injury, it is probably due to a sprain.

4. Cramping

An involuntary contraction of the muscle can create pain. If such cramps occur after you are affected with trauma on your toes, it shows a possibility of a sprain.

5. Pain While Moving

A decreased range of motion or a functional disability is a sprained toe symptom. Instability in the joint movement is also an indication.

You might even hear a popping sound during the period of injury. It is due to the tearing of ligaments which shows that a sprain has occurred.

6. Tenderness

If there is prolonged pain or discomfort while you touch the affected area, it is one of the important sprained toe symptoms.

Causes of Sprained Toe

Sprained toe mainly happens when there is continued physical stress. It can occur while running, performing gymnastics, ballet dancing, frequent jumping, or any activity which creates too much stress on your toes.

Usually sprained toes are a result of accidents that makes your toe bend more than its common range of movement. It might happen while stubbing your toe on the ground or when you walk or run, if your toes hit on something, or if you slip and bend your toe to a higher level.

A sprained toe is a common injury while performing sports.

Athletes are, therefore, more vulnerable to sprained toes. But, a sprain can occur to anyone. Toe sprains are painful and need an adequate amount of time to heal.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Initially, you have to notice the sprained toe symptoms to identify the injury. Talk to your doctor about the affected regions and the movements which make you feel the pain.

In this way, the doctor can identify the exact point of the sprain. Then the grade of your sprain is identified by moving your toes and calculating the intensity of your pain.

After that, an X-ray might be taken to examine whether you have any broken bones. An MRI scan helps diagnose the problems on your ligament and determine the sprain.

As mentioned before, there are different grades of the sprain. It is based on severity.

  • Grade 1 type of sprain or mild sprain happens when there is a minor tearing. Such a type of tearing is called micro-tearing.
  • Grade 2 type of sprain is when your ligament is partially torn, and you will have joint instability.
  • Grade 3 is the most severe type of sprain. It occurs when the ligament is fully torn, and you will have higher joint instability.

If you have sprained toe symptoms, it is good to seek medical advice to determine the treatment option. However, mild sprains can be treated at home.

Buddy taping is a common method of healing toe sprains. In this mode of treatment, the affected toe is taped to the next toe to give extra support and stability. This helps in a faster recovery.

Buddy Taping: Treatment for Toe Injuries

You can do buddy taping if you have a grade 1 type of sprain. You can apply the following steps in any sprain to reduce pain, swelling, and bruising:

  1. Take a rest first. This will provide stability to your toes.
  2. Cold compress the affected region several times.
  3. Use strong and stiff shoes to protect your toes from any further external traumas.
  4. Keep your foot in an elevated position while you sit or sleep.
  5. If you can’t bear the pain, take an anti-inflammatory painkiller.

You can recover from the sprain within a few weeks. According to its severity, healing time varies. It is important to give your toes adequate rest before you get into sports or other tedious activities.

Avoid doing strenuous tasks until you fully recover. If you have persistent pain even after weeks, consult a doctor. Otherwise, it might get worse if left untreated.

Difference Between Sprained Toe and Broken Toe

You will be surprised to know that sprained toe symptoms are quite similar to broken toe symptoms. A broken toe is a severe scenario that can get worse if you don’t give adequate care.

A broken toe can even dislocate bones in the toes, but a sprain can’t. You may not be able to stand or put a little weight on a broken toe.

The location of pain differs in a sprain and a break. You feel the pain at an exact single point in a broken toe, while you feel a general pain in a sprain.

Wearing good-quality walking boots while lifting heavy objects can avoid breaks or sprains. Determine the type of injury by understanding the subtle differences between the sprained toe symptoms and broken toe symptoms.3

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long does it take a sprained toe to heal?

Sprains often recover between three to six weeks. The injured toe can be taped to the following toe to treat a toe sprain and faster recovery.

2. How do you know if you sprained or fractured your toe?

A sprained toe will probably bruise less and is not dislocated, but it will still swell. It may hurt for a few days, but it should eventually get better.

3. Can I walk on a sprained toe?

Your toe will continue to work despite the pain. This shows that you are still able to walk and bear weight on it, but it is advisable to rest and recover first.


It would be best if you dealt with injuries resulting in a sprain with all the know-how. So, learn your sprained toe symptoms and treat them right.

Different conditions can affect your toes, so avoid injuries by taking the necessary preventive methods while doing hard tasks.

Discover more about health and wellness, and stay safe and healthy!

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  1. Fallat, Lawrence, Douglas J. Grimm, and Joseph A. Saracco. “Sprained ankle syndrome: prevalence and analysis of 639 acute injuries.” The Journal of foot and ankle surgery 37.4 (1998): 280-285. ↩︎
  2. Smeulders, Mark JC, et al. “Overstretching of sarcomeres may not cause cerebral palsy muscle contracture.” Journal of orthopaedic research 22.6 (2004): 1331-1335. ↩︎
  3. Eves, Timothy B., and Michael J. Oddy. “Do broken toes need follow-up in the fracture clinic?.” The Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery 55.3 (2016): 488-491. ↩︎

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