Broken toes are a pretty common workout injury and usually happen when you drop something heavy or stub your toe too hard. Needless to say, the pain, swelling and stiffness that follows is no fun.
But seeing your doctor and following their orders will have you up and moving in no time. Read on to learn if you can exercise with a broken toe and what kind of rehab exercises you should add to your daily routine.
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Exercising with a broken toe is not recommended without your doctor's approval. Once you get the green light from a medical professional, start slowly as you heal and follow your doctor's orders, says Carolina Araujo, CPT, a New York-based certified personal trainer.
Can You Exercise With a Broken Toe?
If you have pain, swelling or severe bruising on your toe for more than a few days, see a doctor, according to the Mayo Clinic. Depending on the severity of the fracture, the broken toe healing time can be several weeks.
After the injury, rest your foot as much as possible. Elevate it and apply ice several times a day, 15 minutes at a time, per the Mayo Clinic. You can also take over-the-counter medications, like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, to help manage the pain. As soon as you're able to, make an appointment with your doctor.
Exercising with a broken toe or doing any other activity that causes pain isn't recommended. But when your doctor gives you clearance, you can start to ease back into working out, Araujo says. Just make sure to run your workouts by your doctor before you add them to your routine.
Araujo recommends starting with low-intensity, low-impact exercise. Cardio with a broken toe could include walking or using the elliptical. And for low-impact strength training, focus on upper- or full-body exercises and only add resistance if you're pain-free.
While you train, wear a pair of supportive, stiff-bottomed shoes, per the Mayo Clinic. Before you hit the gym, you can also consider buddy taping, which involves taping your broken toe to its neighboring toe to act as a support.
3 Broken Toe Rehabilitation Exercises
Before you try any rehab exercises for a broken toe, you should consult a doctor and/or seek out physical therapy for a broken toe. Then, if you're able, you can try a few of these moves from Kaiser Permanente for regaining function and mobility once the fracture is healed.
These exercises should only be attempted once your doctor confirms the fracture is stable and healed. You may also need to see a specialist for one-on-one broken toe physical therapy.
1. Passive Toe Exercise
- Sit on the floor and with your heel on the ground.
- Holding your foot steady, gently grasp your injured toe with your thumb and index finger.
- Slowly bend your toe forward, holding it there for 15 seconds.
- Then, bend the toe backward and hold for 15 seconds.
- Repeat for 2 to 4 sets.
2. Toe Curl
- Sit on the floor with the heel of your foot with the broken toe on the ground.
- Slowly curly your toes forward and hold for about 6 seconds.
- Then, curl your toes backward and hold for 6 seconds.
- Repeat for 8 to 12 sets.
3. Towel Scrunch
- Sit on a chair with a towel on the floor in front of you.
- Place the foot of your broken toe on the towel.
- Scrunch the towel toward your heel using your toes.
- Return the towel back into place with your toes.
- Move the towel back and forth using only your toes 8 to 12 times.
If you start to feel any pain while you do these moves, stop immediately. Consult your doctor if you continue to feel pain after you stop the exercises.