You have a broken pinky toe, and you’re having trouble walking or are concerned about making your problem worse?
As a physical therapist, I’m here to address the frequently asked questions from my patients who have broken a toe.
Take-home message: Walking does not worsen a broken little toe because there is minimal weight on this toe while walking. However, to alleviate pain, you will likely need crutches and appropriate footwear for several weeks.
Happy reading 🙂!
Last update: October 2023
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Written by Nelly Darbois, physical therapist and scientific writer.
Why is it difficult to walk with a broken pinky toe?
Walking with a broken little toe can be challenging because, even though it’s small, it plays a role in the balance and stability of your foot. When you walk, you exert pressure on your entire foot, including the little toe.
A fracture in this area can cause intense pain and make walking uncomfortable.
This discomfort is due to both the pressure placed on the toe and its mobility, both of which are involved when walking.
Furthermore, as your bone and other tissues are damaged, there is a slight inflammation in your toe. Inflammation is a natural process initiated by your body to bring the necessary molecules for healing and bone consolidation to the injured area.
Inflammation results in swelling, an accumulation of fluids in the toe, as these fluids transport the repair molecules.
Swelling compresses the tissues and nerves a bit, and although it’s not dangerous, it can be painful, especially when walking, where the little toe is further compressed.
Proof that you’re not alone in finding it difficult to walk with a broken little toe?
Can you walk on a broken pinky toe?
Yes, it’s okay to walk and put weight on the broken little toe.
Under what circumstances is it not allowed? When your surgeon, doctor, or physical therapist has informed you that it could potentially worsen the fracture.
This is rare for a pinky toe fracture. If such a restriction is in place, it’s likely due to a displaced, open, or very unstable fracture.
If you haven’t received any instructions regarding weight-bearing, it means that weight-bearing is allowed!
Will a broken pinky toe heal if you keep walking on it?
Yes, the fracture will heal even if you put weight on it, even in the case of a displaced fracture.
Why is the risk of worsening the fracture extremely low? Because even if there is some weight on the pinky toe while walking, it’s much less than on the big toe. Your body’s weight is distributed across the entire foot, and not heavily on the little toe.
So, if your doctor, surgeon, or physical therapist hasn’t advised against walking, it means you can put as much weight as you can tolerate without the risk of worsening the fracture!
Is it bad to walk a lot with a broken toe? No, as long as the pain is bearable for you.
How to walk despite pain in the pinky toe?
Here are some tips to help make walking easier in the first few days (or weeks).
- Find the right footwear. Some of my patients feel more comfortable with open-toe shoes like flip-flops or Birkenstocks.
Others, on the other hand, prefer sneakers (going up one or two sizes).
- Consider a walking boot. Sometimes you may be prescribed a walking boot.
It costs several tens of euros, and depending on your health insurance, only a portion may be covered.
For toe fractures (especially the little toe), I often find it less useful because it’s only used for a few days or weeks.
But if you absolutely need to resume walking (for work, family life, etc.), walking with a boot is often more comfortable. It also reduces the risk of bumping it again.
- Use crutches or other walking aids. This will allow you to put less weight on the little toe and experience less pain.
In general, my patients with fractured little toes don’t use aids indoors (bulky). They use crutches, a simple cane, or walking sticks outdoors, especially for longer distances.
If you have difficulty walking with crutches or have balance issues, a 2-wheel or 4-wheel walker should help you more.
I’ve created a comprehensive guide to help you identify the right walking aid and how to use it after a fracture.
- Spend time with your foot elevated. For example, by placing your foot on a chair when you’re seated or semi-reclining on your couch with cushions under your leg.
This will help reduce fluid buildup in the foot, which is often a source of increased pain.
- Gradually increase the time and frequency of your walking sessions.
See how your body reacts the night after walking. If you tolerate it well, increase the duration of your next walking session, or consider ditching the crutches!
I’ll show you in the video below the different ways to walk with crutches to gradually reach the point where you can walk without pain or limping. 😊
How long should I not walk (normally) on a broken pinky toe?
This is THE question that is entirely normal to ask.
And it’s probably the most difficult one to answer!
Because many factors come into play: your health status before the fracture, the type of fracture you had (displaced or open toe fractures take longer to recover, as do fractures involving multiple toes), and your definition of “normal walking.”
I couldn’t find specific studies on the resumption of normal walking after a pinky toe fracture, so I’m giving you some numbers based solely on my experience.
|Immediately||Walking with crutches and appropriate footwear|
|Within a few days at best, a few weeks at “worst”||Walking without crutches but with a slight limp and limited walking distance|
|Within several weeks to a few months||Walking without crutches and without limping|
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 🙂 !
If you feel the need to learn more about the recovery period after a broken toe, I wrote this guide in eBook format:
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.
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.