Running with a broken toe is usually not something that crosses a runners mind until they are dealing with the issue themselves. For most runners, taking forced time off can be incredibly difficult. Many runners are willing to run through pain in order to continue their training.
Can I run with a broken toe?
If you find yourself asking this question, it’s likely that you’re hoping to find a way to continue training. Broken toe running might sound silly to non-runners, but those invested in the sport are usually willing to go to great lengths to stick to their regular runs.
In general, though, running with a broken toe is usually not recommended. While broken toes usually require minimal treatment, recovery greatly hinges on the fact that the toe is not aggravated, prodded, or moved in any way.
How long after a broken toe can I run?
Broken toes can take up to 6 weeks to heal completely. The length of healing time will depend on the severity of the break, the types of recovery measures that are used, and which toe is actually broken.
Most broken toes require stability and immobilization in order to heal. Running with a broken toe might be more likely if the toe is one of the middle ones, whereas the pinky toe or big toe will take more time.
Returning to running with a broken toe is usually not recommended for at least 2 weeks post-injury. After this time, runners can begin to evaluate whether or not they are able to put on a running shoe without pain, walk and run without irritation, and if they can stabilize the toe while running.
How do you break a toe?
Since our toes are designed for movement, it can be difficult to actually break a toe. Luckily, running is rarely ever the cause of a broken toe. Here are the most common ways to break a toe.
- Dropping something heavy directly on the toe
- Forcefully stubbing the toe
- Another form of direct impact on the toe
Symptoms of a Broken Toe
The symptoms of a broken toe are much like those of any other bone break. However, many of these symptoms are contained directly to the area, and since the area is so small, it’s tempting to wonder if you can run with a broken toe.
Here are some symptoms to look for if you have injured your toe and are trying to determine whether or not it is broken.
- Pain and tenderness
- Inability to move it
- Visual deformity
Treatment for a Broken Toe
Luckily, treatment for a broken toe is usually non-invasive and healing requires fairly little effort. Whether you know for certain that your toe is broken or are unsure the extent of the injury, taking quick action can help minimize pain and symptoms to speed up recovery.
Here are a few ways to treat a broken toe and get back to running as quickly as possible.
- Apply ice
- Elevate the foot
- Compress the area
- Stabilize or wrap the toe
- Rest – do not complete activities that cause pain
- See a doctor if symptoms don’t go away in a few days
Running with a Broken Toe: What to Know
If you’ve found yourself wondering, “can I run with a broken toe?”, you’re not alone. Most runners facing a broken toe find themselves wanting to start running again before the toe is fully healed. If you’re hoping to continue running with a broken toe, here are a few things you should know.
Prioritize some initial time of complete rest
Even if broken toe running causes no pain, it’s important to give your toe time to heal. In order to do so properly, it will require some rest and time off in the beginning.
After you initially break your toe, you’ll need to take some time off. Regardless of your training goals and plan to return, rest is essential in the initial phases of healing. Plan to take at least a full week off before evaluating whether or not you can return. If more time is needed, try adding some extra cross training activities that do not cause pain.
Wait until you can wear shoes without pain
After a week or two, most runners are eager to resume running – even with a broken toe. However, if putting shoes on is causing pain in your toe, it’s a sign that it is too soon to return. Listen to your body, especially if it is telling you to take more time off.
Immobilize the toe
One of the best ways to protect the toe and allow it to continue to heal, even while running, is to ensure that it is immobilized. Most doctors will show you how to wrap your toe and keep it straight. Continue to do so each day until the toe is fully healed.
It can often be advantageous to tape toes together to provide extra support, especially for those middle toes. Being diligent with your care for the wrap will ensure that your toe is protected, even while walking or running.
Take extra caution for outside toes
Usually, the middle toes are a lot less vulnerable to the motion of running. If you have broken one of your middle toes, you’ll probably be able to start running with a broken toe sooner than if it was an outside toe.
If you’ve broken your big toe or pinky toe, you’ll likely need to take a little extra time off. Be sure that you wait to return to running until you have no pain when wearing shoes or moving in them.
Increase low impact cross training
Many runners get antsy when forced to rest and are eager to get moving as soon as possible. To avoid going completely stir crazy, it is usually safe to incorporate some low impact activities. Cross training with activities such as swimming, low impact workouts or even spinning can all provide a boost of those familiar endorphins without creating too much stress on your toe.
Follow the doctor’s orders
Most importantly, you’ll want to follow your doctor’s orders. It can be a difficult pill to swallow when you hear that you’ll need to take 4 to 6 weeks off from running, but if this is what the doctor recommends, it is in your best interest to do so.
When it comes to running with a broken toe, the most important thing to remember is this: you should not feel pain. If you are eager to return but experience a sharp, shooting pain or even a dull ache in your toe, it’s a sign that it is not ready.
Continuing broken toe running even when it is painful will likely result in an even bigger injury, causing you to need to take more time off down the road. Listening to your body, taking extra precautions, and supplementing your training can all lead to successful running with a broken toe.