Exercises for Turf Toe

Turf toe is a metatarsalphalangeal joint sprain that affects the big toe. It is an injury to the joint and to the connective tissue between that toe and the foot. This occurs when the toe is bent backwards from the foot and commonly takes place on artificial turf or hard surfaces. It might also occur when something falls on the person's calf when the toes and knee are touching the ground and the calf is parallel to the floor or playing surface. Other causes include jamming the big toe into the foot, or repeatedly pushing or jumping off from the toes. Football players, soccer players and dancers are especially prone to turf toe.

Physical therapist stretching out patient's foot. (Image: sasesisuso/iStock/Getty Images)


Turf toe injury should be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation. The most important treatment for turf toe, especially directly after the injury, is rest. Athletes who return to sports too soon after a metatarsalphalangeal joint sprain risk making that injury worse, which will lengthen recovery time and may lead to chronic pain or lameness. For first-time or minor sprains, running and jumping on hard surfaces should be limited for up to one month, and more severe injuries should be rested for up to three months.

Toe Pick-up Exercises

Toe pick-up exercises build strength, flexibility and dexterity. Put several marbles and a bowl on the floor by your bare feet. Use your toes to pick up each marble individually and drop it into the bowl. Continue until all the marbles are in the bowl, then repeat.

Towel Scrunches

Towel scrunches help with flexibility, strength, and dexterity. Sit on a chair and place a towel on the floor by your feet. Grip the towel using your toes. Raise your feet off the floor and hold onto the towel. Hold your feet in the air for up to 10 seconds, then release the towel. Repeat five to seven times.

Short Foot

Short foot exercises help get you back into pre-injury shape. Sit on a chair with your feet flat in front of you on the floor. Keeping your toes flat, lift the arch of your foot up without rolling your foot to the outside. Hold this position for five seconds, then release and repeat until the foot is fatigued.

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