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Is It Okay To Run With A Broken Toe?

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Runners get injuries. It makes sense. You can’t spend that much time on your feet without consequences: intended or unintended. Of course, the intended consequences are the ones we are hoping for. You know, the reasons many of us started to run in the first place. Whether it was to drop a few pounds, to strengthen your muscles, or for better cardiovascular health, running is an excellent path to self-improvement.

However, sometimes those injuries find us sidelined. For example, have you ever wondered if your toe was broken? What about running with a broken toe? How do you know if it is broken?

Why Are Toes Important?

Your toes play a crucial role in helping to stabilize your foot with every step you take, including while running. The toes help you to push off of the ground, propelling you forward.

Ever wonder why the big toe is up to triple the size of the other toes? Due to the large role it plays in arch stabilization, the big toe also helps you to push off of the ground when you walk, run or bicycle.

My Toe Hurts! What Do I Do?

If you are running and find that your toe hurts, you are probably wondering what you should do. The first question is: which toe hurts? The reason this is important is that, as you just learned, your big toe is used for all kinds of things where the smaller toes are not as crucial.

broken toes and running

If your big toe hurts, you may need to rest for a few days. That is because the big toe actually does the push-off when you run. If it is one of the smaller toes, you may be able to power through your workout. It may depend on what type of workout you have planned for the day.

That is because if you are a midfoot or heel striker, the discomfort to the toes may not be as pronounced in an easy recovery run as if you were doing speed work. Anytime you are working on speed and/or agility you may find yourself up on your toes. This type of movement is more likely to cause toe pain!

Signs Your Toe May Be Broken

Whether you stubbed your toe against the end table or you dropped a 50-pound weight on your foot (that happened to me once!), you may have cause to wonder if your toe might be broken.

  • Severe bruising is a sign your toe may be broken.
  • Are you experiencing intense throbbing or pain in the impacted area?
  • Does your toe appear deformed? By that, I mean any kind of lump or bump in it.
  • Is there swelling?
  • Has there been discoloration in the toenail itself?
  • Difficulty when walking is another sign your toe may be broken.

The “pinky toe,” the smallest of your toes, is the one that is most frequently broken.

How To Treat A Broken Toe

There is a common misconception that a broken toe cannot be treated at all. That is not exactly true information. First, you can treat a break or sprain with ice. Many people are fond of submersion icing for this. What that means is you immerse your entire foot into a bucket or basin of ice-cold water. Just be certain if you do this, you are not leaving your foot in that cold liquid for more than 15-20 minutes. You should follow that by at least equal the amount of time at room temperature before using ice again.

Another important thing is to rest the broken toe. Sometimes elevating the toe (of course this means your entire foot) helps to ease inflammation and pain.

Speaking of inflammation. You may wish to take medication to relieve the inflammation. This could include ibuprofen or naproxen, whatever your preference.

buddy taping

If it is one of your smaller toes, or if the break is not a bad one, a physician will often encourage a practice called buddy taping. this means you tape a broken toe to one that is not broken. The toe that is not impacted serves as a splint for the broken toe.

Sometimes a doctor will case a foot due to severe breaks in the toes, in particular, if the big toe is impacted. Another option is to put the person in a special shoe with a very firm sole that provides support for the toe. This can be a smaller shoe or the infamous “boot.”

What About Running With A Broken Toe?

Although runners think that they can tough through anything, it is not best practice to run with a broken toe. You should wait for the pain to subside before trying to power on into your running workouts. You can actually cause damage by failing to listen to your body and insisting on running before your body says you are ready.

A broken toe can often heal in anywhere from two to six weeks, sometimes more, depending on what kind of break and where it is located. Better to sideline yourself for a few weeks now than months later on.

What Types of Workouts Are Best With A Broken Toe?

Rather than running with a broken toe, there are other options. If you are going stir crazy, consider some of these options!

Swimming can be a great alternative to running. Of course, the flutter kick may hurt your foot, but the breaststroke is mostly upper leg strength and motion. You likely can do that without pain in your toe.

water walking

Another option is water walking or running. If you wear a water belt and work out in deep water, your foot should not have to touch the ground. Just be aware of your injured area when you are located near the side of the pool or other people. Remember, if you are barefoot, your feet are not protected.

If you are in some kind of stability shoe, you may find you can bicycle without pain. When I broke my foot, I found I could easily ride a recumbent bike (even with a cast on!).

Other options are yoga for runners and certain types of weight lifting. Honestly, even if you miss running terribly through the duration of the injury: where there is a will to work out there often is a way!

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