Broken Toes vs. Stubbed Toes – Symptoms, Treatment & When to See a Doctor

Stubbing a toe hurts so much because our feet are densely packed with nerve endings. We may question the severity of a stubbed toe, wondering if it’s broken after ten minutes of soreness. When it comes to your health and comfort, it’s best to ice and rest your toe after an injury or, better yet, to keep your feet protected at all times.

Many of us wonder what to do with a broken toe and what the difference is between a broken toe and a stubbed toe. You don’t want to waste time and money seeing a doctor for a stubbed toe, but you don’t want to overlook a broken toe and have the fracture heal incorrectly, creating a crooked appearance.

Symptoms of broken toe:

  • Hear a sound at the time of the break
  • “Pinpoint pain” which is pain at the place of impact at the time of the fracture and possibly for a few hours later.
  • Crooked or abnormal appearance of the toe
  • Bruising and swelling of the toe the next day
  • Bruising, discoloration of a nail
  •  “If you can walk on it, it’s not broken” is NOT true
  • Stress fracture (hairline break) cause swelling but sometimes not bruising and the pain could go away when resting, but returns when putting force on the toe

When to see a doctor:

If the toe looks to be crooked or there is a bone protruding/out of place, it is recommended to see a doctor immediately. If the pain is severe and/or swelled for a prolonged period of time, it is recommended to see a doctor. If a fracture near a joint is left untreated, it can lead to arthritis.

Healing time:

Symptoms of a broken toe may last 8 to 10 weeks and take that long to heal.

First thing to do if you stub or something hits your toe badly:

If you suspect your toe might broken, do the following until you can see a doctor:

  • Rest – don’t put weight on it
  • Elevation – to decrease swelling and pain, keep the foot raised above the level of the heart
  • Ice – put ice or something ice-cold in a plastic bag and apply it to the injury for 15 to 20 minutes every one to two hours
  • Go to doctor to for proper diagnosis and treatment

Best Advice: prevent hurting your toe to start!

Don’t walk around in your house barefoot. It’s good to air your feet but do it sitting or laying down. Wear orthopedic slippers to protect your feet and prevent painful bouts of foot damage and suffering.


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