Loading icon
Press enter or spacebar to select a desired language.
Health Information Center

Toe Sprain

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Toe Sprain


A toe sprain is stretching or tearing of the ligaments that support a toe. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that hold bones to each other.


A toe sprain is caused by trauma from things like:

  • Stubbing the toe into an object when walking barefoot or while wearing sandals
  • Stopping quickly when running, causing a toe to jam into the end of the shoe
  • Landing awkwardly from a jump, causing a toe to jam into the end of the shoe
The Toes (Phalanges) of the Foot.

Nucleus factsheet imagehttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=49284928si55550259.jpgsi55550259.jpgNULLjpgPhalangesNULL\\filer01a\Intellect\images\si55550259.jpgNULL14NULL2003-04-162543904928_11499Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of a toe sprain are:

  • Playing sports, such as football, soccer, basketball, and track
  • Dancing
  • Wearing the wrong footwear for an activity


Problems may be:

  • Pain and tenderness in the toe
  • Pain when moving the toe
  • Swelling and bruising


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. Questions will also be asked about how the injury happened. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the toe.

It can be hard to tell a toe sprain from a fracture or dislocation. Pictures of the foot may be taken. This can be done with:


Treatment will depend on the injury and how severe it is. The goal of treatment is to ease pain and improve movement. Choices are:

  • Supportive care, such as rest, ice,, and raising the foot to ease pain and swelling
  • Over the counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen
  • A stiff shoe to keep the toe still as it heals
  • Physical therapy to strengthen the toe and improve movement


Most toe sprains are due to accidents. They cannot always be prevented. The risk may be lowered by wearing the right athletic shoes for activities.





  • Adult foot health. The American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society website. Available at: http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/overview/Pages/Adult-Foot-Health.aspx.
  • Chauvin NA, Jaimes C, et al. Ankle and foot injuries in the young athlete. Sem Musculoskelet Radiol. 2018;22(1):104-117.
  • Du P, Chen K, et al. The pediatric ankle and foot: a review of common injuries in the pediatric athlete and their treatments. Annals of Joints.2018;(3):35-46.
  • Sports injuries. National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Sports_Injuries/default.asp.
  • Topical NSAIDs. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/drug-review/topical-nsaids.


  • Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT, OCS
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.