How to Do Cardio With a Broken Toe

Row and pull.
(Image: g-stockstudio/iStock/GettyImages)

Breaking your toe doesn’t seem like much of a big deal—but as soon as you put pressure on your foot, that injured little piggy sure screams out in agony.

The good news is, toe fractures heal really fast—between four to six weeks on average,” says chiropractor Lev Kalika, DC, of New York Dynamic Neuromuscular Rehabilitation & Physical Therapy. Additionally, treating a toe fracture is actually quite simple. “Buddy taping” your broken toe to an adjacent toe can help relieve the pain while the toe is healing.

Stay off your feet as much as possible in the days following the injury is important. As your pain subsides, you can begin to bear weight and experiment with movements and exercises that feel comfortable.

Doing Cardio With a Broken Toe

Exercising with a broken toe can be difficult, but not impossible. Kalika recommends avoiding excessive walking or sporting activities which involve loading of the toes. Steer clear of any high-impact cardio that requires you to put pressure on your foot until your doctor clears you.

While exercising, Kalika says, fractures can be helped by wearing shoes with a wider toe box, using tape for stabilization of the fracture site and toe spacers to support alignment. Also, any cardio exercise which does not involve heel lifting from the ground is considered safe.

The Pool Is Perfect

Exercising in the pool is a great way to get a cardio workout in with little to no impact on your broken toe. The buoyancy of the water allows you to keep all the weight off your toe and the versatility of the swimming pool enables you to choose from a number of workouts. You can swim laps, take a water aerobics class and even do some pool running (wear a flotation device around your waist to keep you from hitting the bottom).

Freestyle Swimming
The pool allows you to work out with free from toe pain. (Image: microgen/iStock/GettyImages)

Rowing for Relief

Other than swimming, the rowing machine is possibly the best cardio activity to do when you’re dealing with a broken toe. If your break has you limiting the use of your foot too, you can still use the seat in a stable position and with the upper body to get the heart pumping.

Cycling for Cardio

A stationary bike is safe as long as you remain seated, even when lifting your heels, because it does not create ground reaction forces—in other words, it's low-impact. Use a stiff-soled shoe to protect the toe and make room for swelling.

Experiment with the Elliptical

The elliptical machine keeps your foot in one position and eliminates the jarring motion that comes with running. Pay attention to your heel as it raises off the platform. Try to minimize the lift and if you feel any pain or discomfort in your toe, stop the exercise and try something else.

Arm Bike Workout

Next time you head to the gym, look to see if they have an arm bike, or upper-body ergometer. This upper-body only cardio machine gets the heart pumping without having to put any pressure on your injured toe.

Read more: Arm Bike Benefits

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