Broken toe

A broken toe can be painful, but you do not usually need to go to hospital. There are things you can do to treat it at home.

Check if you have a broken toe

You may have broken your toe if it's:

Information:

Do not worry if you're not sure if it's broken or just bruised, treatment is usually the same for both.

Urgent advice: Get help from NHS 111 if:

  • you have a bad cut or wound after injuring your toe
  • you have severe toe pain
  • your child has hurt or broken their toe

You may need further treatment in hospital, such as a boot, cast or surgery.

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

What we mean by severe pain
Severe pain:
  • always there and so bad it's hard to think or talk
  • you cannot sleep
  • it's very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress
Moderate pain:
  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress
Mild pain:
  • comes and goes
  • is annoying but does not stop you doing daily activities

Immediate action required: Go to A&E if:

  • you think you have broken your big toe
  • your toe is pointing out at an odd angle
  • the bone is sticking out of your toe
  • there was a snap, grinding or popping noise at the time of injury
  • you feel tingling in your toe or foot or it feels numb

If you cannot get to A&E by yourself, call 999 for an ambulance.

What you can do about a broken toe

Doctors will usually suggest you treat a broken toe at home first if:

Broken toes usually heal within 4 to 6 weeks, but it can sometimes take several months.

Do

  • take ibuprofen or paracetamol for the pain and swelling

  • rest your foot and keep it raised

  • hold an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas) wrapped in a towel on your toe for up to 20 minutes every few hours

  • wear wide, comfortable shoes with a low heel

  • avoid walking around as much as possible

  • strap up your broken toe – put a small piece of cotton wool or gauze between your sore toe and the toe next to it, then tape them together to support the sore toe

Don’t

  • do not strap up your toe if it's pointing out at an odd angle or you have hurt your big toe – get medical advice

  • do not put ice directly on your skin

  • do not walk or stand for long periods

  • do not wear tight, pointy shoes

  • do not play any sports like football, rugby or hockey for 6 weeks or until the pain eases

  • do not try to treat your child's toe – take them to an urgent treatment centre or A&E

A pharmacist can help with a broken toe

You can ask a pharmacist about:

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • pain and swelling has not started to ease 2 to 3 days after you injured your toe
  • it still hurts to walk 6 weeks after injuring your toe
  • you have diabetes and have injured your toe – foot problems can be more serious if you have diabetes

They may send you for an X-ray to see if you need any further treatment.

Page last reviewed: 6 May 2022
Next review due: 6 May 2025