Broken Little Toe and Running

Feet leaving starting blocks
A broken little toe is a big deal to a runner who wants to stay on the road. (Image: Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images)

Your little toe doesn't usually break from running itself. It breaks because it's on the outside of the foot and gets slammed or stubbed against another object or something drops on it. Then the pain kicks in and swelling starts. Within a few moments, it might start turning red or blue. As a runner, probably one of your first thoughts is how the injury will affect your running.

Immediate Treatment

Man Unloading Bags of Ice
Apply ice to your toe for up to 20 minutes at a time after you think it's broken. (Image: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

How soon you are able to run after breaking your little toe depends significantly on how quickly and how well you treat the break right after it occurs. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), apply ice to your toe for up to 20 minutes at a time after you think it's broken. Use an ice pack or towel to buffer the ice from your skin. Also, take ibuprofen or aspirin to help reduce the swelling and pain.

Rest

Mature man asleep on couch
Rest is the primary treatment for stress fractures in the foot. (Image: Kraig Scarbinsky/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

"Rest is the primary treatment for stress fractures in the foot," according to the AAOS. Unfortunately, rest is a major source of anxiety for runners. According to Jeffrey A. Oster, a podiatrist and medical director of My Foot Shop, resting for a few days — along with ice, compression and elevation — is crucial to helping your toe heal.

Medical Care

Doctor explaining x-ray to patient
If the pain and swelling don't disappear in a few days, see a doctor. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

If the pain and swelling don't disappear in a few days, if you can't fit your foot in a shoe or if it's difficult to walk, then see a doctor. Usually, according to the AAOS, the doctor will x-ray the toe and be able to align it properly without surgery. While casting and having to wear a stiff-bottom shoe are possible, the most common treatment, according to Oster, is buddy-splinting the toe by taping it to the fourth toe so that toe acts as a splint.

Rehabilitation

Most doctors will recommend you stay off the foot as much as possible — and completely avoid running — for at least one week and up to eight weeks. There are a variety of exercises you can do to rehabilitate your toe until you can run again, according to Summit Medical Group. Manually straighten the toe and massage the area three times a day. Lay a towel on the floor in front of your foot and flex your toes so you can grab and pull it toward you until it's gathered under your toes. Lean against a wall, then back on your heels for five seconds at a time, doing three sets of 10 raises. You can also hold onto a chair and raise yourself up on your toes, doing three sets of 10 reps. As with any exercises, stop if you feel pain or discomfort.

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