Can You Walk If Your Big Toe Is Broken?

Your big toe plays a major role in positioning your foot and maintaining your balance. This is why you really don't appreciate its contribution until you injure it. Walking on a broken toe hurts every time your body engages it, which is why those who must walk on a broken tie are better off taking some protective measures.

A foot with a splint on a broken toe. Credit: goodapp/iStock/Getty Images

Symptoms of a Broken Toe

Pain, swelling or stiffness, especially when walking, are the primary symptoms of a broken toe. However, these are also the primary symptoms of a sprained or jammed toe. Unless the break is severe enough to mis-shape your toe, the only way to tell the difference between a break and a sprain is through X-ray imaging. Fortunately, the treatment for all three injuries is nearly identical.


Medical treatment for a broken to focuses on minimizing pain and swelling, and on preventing further injury to your toe. Symptom reduction includes pain medication, anti-inflammatories and regular icing. To prevent further injury, "buddy taping" -- taping the big toe to its neighbor - is a common fix for minor breaks and fractures. A serious break, the kind that results in a misshapen toe, might be put in a cast or splinted to help to restore natural shape.

Drooping Toe

One recurring problem with a broken big toe is that it will droop below the line of the other toes on your foot. This droop also puts it below the level you are accustomed to. This means that as you walk, your big toe is at risk of being stubbed and reinjured. Although this is true of all toes, it's especially a problem for big toes because of their larger size and greater involvement in stabilizing your foot.

Can You Walk With a Broken Big Toe?

Put simply, yes....but you probably won't want to. Between the pain and risk of reinjury, walking with a broken big toe will literally be a pain. If you must walk with a broken big toe, you should buddy-tape it to its neighbor and wear closed-toe shoes for added protection. If you have access to a cane or walking stick, using it can help protect your big toe from becoming too involved in helping balance and stabilize yourself as you walk.

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