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How to Relieve Turf Toe with Taping

by Patty Weasler, RN August 18, 2021 0 Comments

woman foot taped

When it comes to turf toe, taping can provide both support and protection for the big toe ligaments. This hyperextension injury is common among athletes like football players and runners, occurring when an athlete pushes off on their toes to run or move in a way that the toe is pushed too far up; causing a sprain within the toe joint. Keep scrolling to learn the ins and outs of taping up to help prevent a turf toe injury. 

Benefits of Taping for Turf Toe

Turf toe typically involves the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP joint). When the area around the MTP joint, called the plantar complex, is injured turf toe occurs. This plantar complex is made up of ligaments, tendons, and two small bones called the sesamoids.

Learn More About This Common Injury

Proper taping techniques for a  turf toe injury can help:

  • Prevent hyperextension
  • Improve joint stabilization
  • Relieve painful symptoms
  • Provide protection against injury or reinjury
  • Decrease swelling & overall foot pain

When you tape your big toe and forefoot it is like you are placing a flexible splint on your foot. You will be able to move and have some movement within the big toe joint but it should prevent further injury and extension. 

When to Use Tape for Turf Toe

You should tape your toe and foot when you are playing sports that are commonly known to cause turf toe. These sports are football, running, and soccer. Any sport that requires you to quickly push-off your feet to run or move can cause this foot injury. Another time you should use turf toe taping is when you are playing on artificial turf or are wearing shoes that are flexible and don’t have significant forefoot support.

When to Skip the Tape

You should avoid using athletic or kinesiology tape:

  • At the sign of any skin irritation
  • With an open skin injury
  • If you experience poor circulation to your toes or feet
  • With a broken toe

If you have never used sports tape, test a small area on your skin to make sure you aren’t sensitive to the adhesive.

Types of Tape You Can Use

There are two popular types of tape used for athletes and athletic-related injuries. Kinesiology tape and athletic tape. Both types of tape have their own pros and cons.

Kinesiology Tape 

Kinesio tape is flexible, breathable, and can be worn for several days in a row. The tape moves with the user and works by slightly tugging at the skin to improve lymphatic and blood circulation which increases your proprioception (body awareness). The downside to kinesiology tape is that it doesn’t restrict your range of motion and your toe can still become hyperextended.

Athletic tape

This tape (more specifically zinc oxide tape) is a rigid tape that almost completely restricts joint movement when applied correctly. For turf toe, that’s exactly what you want. You want to prevent your MTP joint from bending upward. The cons are that it isn’t breathable, flexible, and does not hold up well to moisture, but ultimately, the benefits outweigh the cons and we recommend using zinc oxide tape for turf toe.

The Best Athletic Taping Technique

Taping yourself after an injury can be tricky. If you have trouble don’t hesitate to reach out to a sports medicine specialist. Here’s our recommended go-to taping technique using athletic tape.

  1. Start off with a piece of 1 inch or 1.5 inch zinc oxide tape. Wrap the tape around the base of the big toe to create an anchor. Make sure your toe is in a neutral position.
  2. Wrap the second piece of tape around the middle of your foot. This is another anchor piece.
  3. Place a piece of tape from the top of the toe anchor to the top of the midfoot anchor. Make sure it is taught but not pulling up on your toe.
  4. Continue placing pieces of tape next to each other so that they are slightly overlapping from the toe anchor to the midfoot anchor. Do this until you have gone all the way around to the bottom of the foot covering the entire toe joint.
  5. Place a piece of tape around the injured toe and around the midfoot to anchor the individual strips.

To provide extra security for your tape, use an elastic wrap around the tape to keep it secure.

Which Tape Should I Use?

Overall, both types of tape can provide benefits to turf toe, but the one you chose to use should be based on your individual needs and stage of recovery. For athletes who are currently active in their sport, athletic tape may be the better option. While those recovering from turf toe should wear kinesiology tape during the rehab process.

Tips for Taping Your Toe

Here are our best tips for taping your toe with either type of tape:

  • Fan out your toes when laying the tape for the smoothest application.
  • Use an adhesive spray before you place your tape for extra stickiness.
  • Make sure your foot is completely dry before laying your first piece of tape.
  • Don’t wrap your toe and foot so tightly that you are restricting blood flow.
  • Ask for help if you need it. Sometimes the angle you need to tape from makes it tough to reach certain spots.
  • Use in conjunction with other turf toe treatments

Taping vs. Bracing

Taping and bracing for turf toe are two very different treatments but both have their place in joint injury recovery.

What’s the Difference?

With taping (regardless of kinesiology or athletic tape) complete immobilizing of the joint is difficult to achieve. You can always expect some range of motion. It’s a great option for athletes that want to continue playing sports while supporting their injury and is less obtrusive than a brace. If you have a severe turf toe injury, taping may not be the best option for you.

A toe brace or splint provides complete immobilization of the great toe joint. You can easily put the brace on and take it off without worrying about adhesive sticking or getting it wet as you do with tape, but won’t usually fit comfortably inside cleats or running shoes. If you have a significant injury then a brace is likely the best option for you during the recovery phase.  

Give Taping a Try

Toe pain caused by a turf toe injury can sideline anyone. Treatment should begin with rest, ice, compression, and elevation. When you get your doctor’s OK to start playing sports use tape to give your toe joint some added support. Taping can help prevent additional injury and allow your toe to heal while you are still having fun on the field. Always talk to your doctor or consider physical therapy before you begin treatment for any new injury.




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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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