How Long Does a Broken Toe Take to Heal? (+Tips)

broken toe healing time

It’s very common to break a toe, sometimes simply by stubbing your foot against something hard.

While recovery from a toe fracture is often quite successful, concerns often arise about healing time: how long does it take to heal? When can you walk normally again? Resume work? Can you drive with a broken toe? Is an orthopedic support necessary?

As a physical therapist, I’m addressing your most frequently asked questions about the duration and steps to take! Towards the end of the article, you’ll also find references to the scientific publications I rely on. And there’s a comment section if you have any questions or remarks!

Happy reading 🙂!

Last update: September 2023
Disclaimer: Amazon affiliate links. Complete disclosure in legal notices.

Written by Nelly Darbois, physical therapist and scientific writer

If you would like more information about this rehabilitation period, I have dedicated an eBook to this topic 🙂!

ebook fracture recovery

How to tell if you’ve broken your toe or just sprained it?

It’s quite common to stub your little toe, experience an impact on one or more toes, or have them crushed. Or you might trip, fall, or have an accident and wonder if you’ve broken one or more toes.

Common toe injuries (fracture + others)

The symptoms of a broken toe (toe fracture in medical terms) are similar to symptoms of other injuries:

  1. A sprain of the toe ligaments, commonly referred to as a “sprained toe.” This is when the ligaments are stretched or torn.
  2. Dislocation of one or more toes.
  3. A simple bruise to one or more toes.

So, what are these common symptoms?

  • Swelling in the phalanges of one or more toes (edema). This swelling can also extend to the front of the foot.
  • Significant pain, often even at rest (without walking or moving the toe). The pain might throb.
  • Changes in skin color, turning blue or purple (bruising).
  • Difficulty moving the toe.
  • Difficulty walking or bearing weight on the foot where it happened.
  • Deformation of the toe.

Only some of these signs might be present. The duration of these symptoms isn’t a good indicator for diagnosis, as even in a minor sprain without torn ligaments, swelling can last for weeks.

How is the diagnosis of a toe fracture made?

So, how can you tell if you have a fracture, dislocation, or on the contrary, nothing broken or dislocated? Since the symptoms are often similar?

Only an X-ray (or possibly other imaging methods) can diagnose a fracture and differentiate it from a simple sprain or bruise.

However, many individuals don’t consult a doctor or the emergency room after injuring their toe. As a result, they don’t get a prescribed X-ray.

Did you decide that your injury wasn’t significant enough to seek medical attention? That’s your right, even though as healthcare professionals, we often encourage seeking medical advice.In such cases, you won’t know whether you have a fracture, sprain, or bruise. And you might never find out.

This isn’t very concerning in itself because most of the time, one recovers well from these three problems. Regardless of what you do, and regardless of the treatment (or lack of treatment) you implement.

Foot X-ray showing a spiral fracture in one of the phalanges of the 4th toe (indicated by the red arrow)
Foot X-ray showing a spiral fracture in one of the phalanges of the 4th toe (indicated by the red arrow)

The different types of toe fractures

Like any bone, a toe can break:

  • At different points along the length of the bone:
    • Fracture of a phalanx: P1, P2, or P3 (P stands for phalanx).
    • At the joint with the metatarsal, the bone that extends from the toes. This is referred to as a fracture of the metatarsal head.
  • In different ways: displaced or non-displaced, closed or open, with or without associated dislocation, stress fracture, comminuted fracture (multiple bone fragments: the bone is broken in multiple places). 95% of toe fractures are non-displaced (which is better as it leads to faster recovery). (Van Vliet 2011)
  • The big toe (38%) and the little toe (30%) are the most commonly fractured toes. (Van Vliet 2011)

Again, the type of fracture cannot be determined by the naked eye or a simple physical examination. X-rays are required for this purpose. Physical therapists cannot (yet?) prescribe X-rays in France and many countries.

That’s why, generally, if you undergo an X-ray, your radiologist won’t simply write “fractured toe” but something more detailed.

X-ray of a displaced fracture of the little toe in a child
X-ray of a displaced fracture of the little toe in a child

What to do if you’ve broken your toe?

You’ve been diagnosed with a fracture in one or more toes.

Following this diagnosis, the medical or surgical team that made the diagnosis has likely recommended a personalized treatment based on:

  • The type of fracture
  • Your overall health
  • Any work or personal commitments you may have
  • Your preferences

In the vast majority of cases, the treatment for a toe fracture is non-surgical. This means that there is no surgery involved. The usual recommendations include:

  • At a minimum, alleviating pain and reducing stress on the toe by using crutches for a few days if needed. Taking pain-relieving medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter, as required.
  • Sometimes, immobilizing the toe with a splint, strapping, buddy taping (taping the affected toe to an adjacent one), or a rigid shoe designed to limit mobility in the fractured area.
  • Occasionally, emphasis is placed on partial weight-bearing while walking, avoiding putting too much pressure on the foot with the fractured toe. This may involve using crutches for 4 to 6 weeks to allow for proper healing.
  • In very rare cases, complete avoidance of weight-bearing may be recommended, and sometimes even casting.

Surgery after toe fracture

Surgical treatment is sometimes considered when the fracture is displaced, unstable, and there’s a risk of poor healing. However, this remains exceptional. A study that followed 339 individuals diagnosed with toe fractures observed that none of them required surgery (Van Vliet 2011).

Surgical intervention often involves “reducing” the fracture, which means realigning the bone fragments properly.

Natural recovery of toe fracture

Some individuals might feel unsettled by the notion of there being “nothing to do” after a toe fracture. Personally, I find this reassuring; it illustrates that after millions of years of evolution, your human body is quite adept at healing itself to a reasonable extent💪!

Furthermore, a physician in the United Kingdom questioned whether intervening and treating patients with toe phalanx fractures was more effective than no treatment in reducing the time to return to normal activity and the need for surgical intervention. His conclusion after reviewing the 40 most relevant publications on the subject:

There is no evidence to determine whether any form of intervention improves the outcome of toe phalanx fractures.

Paradise 2012

See also: How long will a broken toe stay swollen?

Do you need rehabilitation or physical therapy sessions?

Sometimes, you might see people undergoing physical therapy for “only” a toe fracture, but this is quite rare. Typically, people are able to resume their daily activities on their own relatively quickly, within a few weeks, which often suffices in terms of recovery.

Physical therapy might be relevant if:

  • You’ve had a complex fracture.
  • You have other associated fractures.
  • You’re having difficulty gradually resuming your daily activities.

If you’re in any of these situations, you can schedule an appointment for a personalized physical therapy assessment to determine how a physical therapist can assist you in recovering better.

In France, if you have a prescription from a doctor or surgeon, physical therapy sessions are covered by health insurance and private insurance.

If you would like more information about this rehabilitation period, I have dedicated an eBook to this topic 🙂!

ebook fracture recovery

Do you need to have a splint after toe fracture?

Normally, you would have received personalized information about this.

Most of the time, a toe fracture can heal without needing a splint. However, a splint can sometimes help alleviate discomfort in the fractured area.

If the goal is simply pain relief, I suggest:

  • Trying various types of (preferably open) shoes to see which ones are the most comfortable.
  • Optionally, limiting movement in the fractured toe by taping it to an adjacent toe. This is called buddy taping. You can make your own, or you can buy ready-made ones (see below or in pharmacies).
Toe splint / Wraps
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4/5 – 493 reviews
  • attelle syndactylie fracture orteil

What is the duration of immobilization?

The average duration for a fracture to heal is about 6 weeks. Sometimes, immobilization might be recommended for up to 6 weeks, and a follow-up X-ray might be taken during this time.

However, remember that most of the time, no immobilization is suggested, or only for a few days to relieve pain and facilitate movement.

After a toe fracture, the immobilization period can range from 0 days to a few weeks.

2 non-displaced fractures: one on the proximal phalanx of the 4th toe, the other on the little toe, articular fracture
2 non-displaced fractures: one on the proximal phalanx of the 4th toe, the other on the little toe, articular fracture

Are you allowed to walk after toe fracture?

If the healthcare professional who diagnosed the fracture didn’t mention anything about walking restrictions, it means they believe walking isn’t dangerous for you. This is the case in the vast majority of situations following a fracture of the big toe, little toe, or any other toe.

In most cases, you’ll be able to walk while bearing weight on the foot with the fracture. You might need one or two crutches for a few days or weeks to alleviate pressure.

You will likely resume normal walking within a few weeks at most after breaking your toe.

What is the healing time for a broken toe?

It’s completely normal to be concerned about the recovery duration! Be aware that predicting it with certainty is impossible. Many factors come into play:

  • The type of toe fracture, and whether you’ve broken one or multiple toes.
  • Your overall health condition.
  • Your history with the foot in question.
  • Whether you smoke or not.
  • Your weight.
  • And more.

Here are the average timelines I observe among the individuals I treat.

StageAverage Timeline from Day of Fracture
Reduced PainSeveral days
Bones Well Healed4-8 weeks
Foot Swelling SubsidesSometimes several weeks. See also: Broken Toe Swelling not Going Gown
Resuming Walking with CrutchesImmediately
Resuming Walking without CrutchesA few days to a few weeks
Able to Drive a CarImmediately to a few days or weeks
Returning to WorkImmediately, sometimes a few days, rarely a few weeks or months
Getting Back to Sports!A few days to a few weeks
Full Functional and Muscular RecoveryA few weeks to a few months
Typical Healing and Recovery Time after a Broken Toe or Toes

What is the healing time for a broken little toe?

In general, you recover faster from a broken little toe (or any other toe) than from a broken big toe. Why?

Because the little toe is less mobile than the big toe. When we walk and take steps, the big toe is more stressed at the level of the phalanges and metatarsals, which is not the case for the little toe.

Generally, 4 to 6 weeks after a broken little toe, the bones are healed, and daily discomfort subsides completely.

What is the healing time for a broken big toe?

Since the big toe is more mobile and bears more weight during walking (we put more of our body weight on it compared to other toes), it might take a little longer to recover from a fracture.

In general, around 6 to 8 weeks after a broken big toe, consolidation is achieved, and one can almost resume all usual activities.

X-ray of a non-displaced fracture of the big toe's phalanx (hallux)
X-ray of a non-displaced fracture of the big toe’s phalanx (hallux)

Can you drive with a broken toe?

You will come across varying opinions regarding the resumption of driving a car after toe fractures.

The traffic regulations do not provide specific guidance on this matter. It is up to the driver to ensure that their condition is compatible with responsive driving.

If you have a strict contraindication to bearing weight, using the pedals is not recommended. Even though you will apply far less pressure on the pedals compared to walking.

Here is an overview of a publication that synthesizes the opinions provided by surgeons regarding when to resume driving after fractures, whether they are operated on or not.

driving after toe fracture
Source: Danilcowicz 2020

There is no specific indication for toe fractures, but there are more general guidelines for resuming activities after an undisplaced lower limb fracture requiring the use of a cast.

In this case, 60% of surveyed orthopedic surgeons say that it is safe to drive. However, it is not clear what type of cast is being referred to. If the cast hinders proper use of the foot for a manual transmission car, it might be challenging to consider driving.

If you do not have a cast, you will likely be able to drive your car within the first few days after a fracture of one or more toes.

How much time off work with a broken toe?

In France, the Health Insurance provides guidelines for recommended sick leave duration after different types of fractures, including fractures of the toe phalanges and metatarsals.

It indicates:

  • that non-displaced fractures might sometimes allow for normal work without sick leave;
  • that other toe fractures might require between 10 days and 84 days of sick leave, depending on the nature of the professional activity, the type of fracture, and the treatment (orthopedic or surgical).

This is simply a guide. The relevant duration in your case should be determined through discussion with your doctor or the individuals overseeing your rehabilitation.

After a toe fracture, sick leave is not always necessary. When it is required, the duration can range from a few days to several months for complicated fractures and physically demanding jobs.

If you feel the need to learn more about the recovery period after a broken toe, I wrote this guide in eBook format:


Here’s what I wanted to tell you about this! I wish you a very good recovery! Do you have any comments or questions? Your comments are welcome 🙂 !

You may also like:


Van Vliet-Koppert ST, Cakir H, Van Lieshout EM, De Vries MR, Van Der Elst M, Schepers T. Demographics and functional outcome of toe fractures. J Foot Ankle Surg. 2011 May-Jun;50(3):307-10. doi: 10.1053/j.jfas.2011.02.003. Epub 2011 Mar 25. PMID: 21440463.

Paradise D. Towards evidence based emergency medicine: Best BETs from the Manchester Royal Infirmary. BET 3: Toe fractures in adults. Emerg Med J. 2012 Nov;29(11):933. doi: 10.1136/emermed-2012-201952.4. PMID: 23100473.

Hatch RL, Hacking S. Evaluation and management of toe fractures. Am Fam Physician. 2003 Dec 15;68(12):2413-8. PMID: 14705761.

York PJ, Wydra FB, Hunt KJ. Injuries to the great toe. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2017 Mar;10(1):104-112. doi: 10.1007/s12178-017-9390-y. PMID: 28124292; PMCID: PMC5344861.

Van Vliet-Koppert ST, Cakir H, Van Lieshout EM, De Vries MR, Van Der Elst M, Schepers T. Demographics and functional outcome of toe fractures. J Foot Ankle Surg. 2011 May-Jun;50(3):307-10. doi: 10.1053/j.jfas.2011.02.003. Epub 2011 Mar 25. PMID: 21440463.

photo de nelly darbois, kinésithérapeute et rédactrice web santé

Written by Nelly Darbois

I love writing articles based on my experience as a physiotherapist (since 2012), scientific writer, and extensive researcher in international scientific literature.

I live in the French Alps 🌞❄️, where I work as a scientific editor for my own website, which is where you are right now.

More about me

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