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How to Treat & Recover from Turf Toe

by Patty Weasler, RN August 18, 2021 0 Comments

Treating turf toe

Turf toe is a common sports injury among football players and runners that occurs when the toe is pushed upward beyond the normal range of motion which can cause hyperextension or sprain in the big toe joint. If you have developed turf toe, treatment should begin immediately after the initial injury to relieve pain and progress to recovery and strengthening remedies. Here’s what to do.

Immediately Following Turf Toe Injury

In turf toe injuries the injured junction is the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP joint). This joint is where the metatarsal bone meets the phalanx bone. The structures that surround this joint are called the plantar complex and are made up of ligaments, tendons, fibrous tissue, and two small bones called the sesamoids.

More on Turf Toe

Immediately after your injury, you need to stop and treat your turf toe. Use the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method to reduce pain and improve healing. Below we will cover each step you can take to heal turf toe.

Resting the Foot 

As in most sports injuries, you need to rest your foot after turf toe. Stop doing the activities that cause pain and don’t put weight on your foot. Immobilization of your affected foot may be necessary if you have a moderate to severe injury. A walking boot can be used to immobilize your foot and crutches will prevent putting weight on your foot. At night try wearing a night splint to protect your toe.

Applying Ice

Cold packs placed on the painful area will numb the pain and minimize swelling. Apply an ice pack for 20 minutes at a time for the first few days for the best results. Never sleep with an ice pack or leave it on your skin for long periods of time. This can cause serious skin injury.

Compression on Toe

Along with rest and ice, you need to provide gentle compression to your toe. Compressing the injury will lessen the amount of swelling in the soft tissue, support the joint, and encourage better blood flow to the area. Use a brace or tape around your forefoot. If you choose a brace, look for one that is adjustable so you can tighten or loosen according to how much swelling you have. 

Kinesiology Taping

Using kinesiology tape is another effective conservative treatment that helps to reduce pain, prevent turf toe symptoms, and promote healing. When used properly, the tape provides stability to the big toe joint and foot by restricting flexion.

How to Tape for Turf Toe

Elevating Injured Foot

Elevating your foot, along with rest, ice, and compression, will reduce swelling and in turn, pain. Aim to elevate your foot above the level of your heart for the best results. Do this by laying on the couch or in bed with your foot on a pillow or two. Elevation pillows are also a great option for keeping the foot raised.

Over-The-Counter Anti-Inflammatories

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen reduce pain and swelling. When used in combination with other treatments these medications will take the edge off and let you perform physical therapy and exercises. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you take a new medication to prevent any unintended side effects.

Physical Therapy & Exercises

When the turf toe pain has subsided it’s time to start moving and get back to enjoying your favorite sports. Before you jump right into football or running work with a physical therapist to develop a guided treatment plan that involves gentle stretching and exercise. Your physical therapist will perform a physical examination to evaluate your injury and then develop a plan suited to your needs.

Effective Turf Toe Exercises

Preventing Turf Toe

The best injury treatment is prevention. If you are an athlete who plays on artificial turf then you need to do everything you can to prevent turf toe. The push-off motion on your toes in flexible athletic shoes is a poor combination that will likely lead to injury. Here are our best tips to prevent turf toe:

  • Proper Footwear

    Look for footwear that provides support and prevents bending or force on your toes.

  • Shoe Inserts

    Inserts will support your forefoot and protect your toes from excessive force during push-off

    Find the Right Insoles for You

  • Gait Evaluation

    Work with a physical therapist or your doctor to have your gait evaluated. They will look for movement abnormalities that can be correct with shoe inserts or therapy treatment.

Don’t Let it Go Untreated

Turf toe is a common sports-related injury that needs prompt and effective treatment. Stop all activities that cause pain and apply the RICE treatment method to your foot. When the pain subsides begin gentle stretches and exercises to strengthen the surrounding muscles and maintain your range of motion. In moderate to severe injuries, you will need to see your doctor for medical advice and treatment.


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Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.

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