The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Turf Toe: A Real Pain in the Foot

Posted by on Friday, February 24th, 2012


You may overhear conversations like this sometime during the summer or fall:

Fantasy Team Owner 1: What?! Williams is out AGAIN? I need him to win my match up this week!

Fantasy Team Owner 2: What’s wrong with him?

Fantasy Team Owner 1: He’s got turf toe.

Fantasy Team Owner 2: Turf toe? He can’t play with some little toe injury?!

Fantasy Team Owner 1: I know, seriously? What a baby.

No, not a baby at all! Turf toe sounds like it should be a mild little injury, just a little nick. However, turf toe is actually a painful injury that lingers on and on and on and makes it difficult for anyone to run or walk. Do not sneer at turf toe.

About Turf Toe The name of the injury comes from the belief that the injury is more likely to happen to athletes who run on artificial turf, but it can happen to anyone on any kind of surface. Turf toe is another name for sprained ligaments around your big toe. These ligaments help your toe bend and push off when you move. Turf toe occurs when your big toe is hyperextended, or bent back beyond the toe’s normal range of motion. Picture a large football player getting tackled at the speed of sound by another large football player. His body goes in one direction, while his shoe remains stuck in another. The result is a toe forced into an unnatural–and painful–position. Again, though, that can happen on any kind of surface, including those without any turf, like the hardwood. Athletes who wear shoes that don’t offer enough support are prone to turf toe, while dancers can get it because, well, dancers ask their feet to do a lot of extreme things.

How do I know I have turf toe? It hurts!! That’s how you’ll know. You may also notice swelling around the base of your big toe. If you suspect you have turf toe, go to your doctor to get a definitive diagnosis.

Oww, I have turf toe, how can I make it go away? Our old friend RICE is here! That’s Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Your doctor will recommend that you ice the toe and keep it elevated to bring down the swelling; some doctors may recommend a cortisone shot for extremely painful cases or suggest an anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen.

Your doctor will likely wrap or tape your big toe to the toe next to it to keep it immobile. Rest is hugely important here–you’ll be advised to keep your weight off your feet, either by wearing a walking boot or using crutches.And of course, any athletic activity or dancing is out. It may take two to three weeks for your toe to heal. Surgery usually isn’t required, unless turf toe leads to bone spurs, and they need to be removed.

(Doesn’t it seem incredible that injuring as small a body part as a toe can have such an effect on your life? They’re small, but those little toes bear an enormous amount of weight and do a lot of the work that comes with moving. Toes, we love you!)

I don’t want turf toe, what should I do? Doctors typically recommend wearing shoes that are stiff and offer a lot of support. If turf toe is caused by overflexing, don’t wear shoes that allow your toes to flex too much. If you’re prone to turf toe, you may need orthotics that will help keep your toes bend, not break (or sprain).

If you suspect you have turf toe, or any other kind of foot injury, contact us at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.




If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.