How to Treat an Injured or Broken Toe by Buddy-Taping

Updated on May 11, 2017
eHealer profile image

I have worked as an RN for over 25 years in several specialties, and I am an educator for various universities on the West Coast.

Broken toes can be extremely painful, hurt for several weeks, and make it difficult to walk and wear shoes. Since only the big toe can be casted if it has been broken, buddy-taping can be beneficial in terms of allowing the toe to heal in a straight position. This will make walking more comfortable—and reduce swelling and pain. Follow these easy steps to buddy-tape a broken or injured toe.

How do I Know My Toe is Broken?

There are several types of injuries that may cause toe fractures:

  • Stress Fracture: A toe that becomes fractured after repetitive movements or action, such as sports or an occupation.
  • Trauma or Injury: Stubbing or dropping a heavy object on the toes that causes a fracture.
  • Hyper-Extension: A fall or a trip that forces the weight of the body on the toes and bends them backwards.

Broken toes have discolored and bruised skin, are swollen at the fracture, are painful to the touch, and are sensitive to movement.

Signs and Symptoms of a Broken Toe

After the injury, you may experience stiffness, swollen, red or purplish bruising around the fracture of the toe. The toe may look crooked, twisted, or appear deformed from swelling. Depending on the type of injury, the toenail may have a collection of blood underneath it, and the toenail may begin to separate and fall off after a few days. Your toenail will grow back.

When to Seek Medical Care

  • If you suspect the big toe is broken, you will need a cast placed by a doctor to ensure the bone heals straight and minimizes residual arthritis later on
  • Pain of the toe gets worse instead of better with unrelieved pain by over-the-counter medications
  • Increased swelling with dark colored skin around the affected toe and severe pain. This may indicate a blood vessel has been ruptured and continues to bleed internally
  • You have an open fracture, which means you can see the bone through the skin, or there is drainage or bleeding near the affected toe

Apply Ice to the Broken Toe

Place a moist hand towel in a plastic bag and place in the freezer, or place ice cubes in water in a bowel big enough to accommodate your foot comfortably. Place ice pack or soak the affected foot in cold water about 20 minutes every hour or when necessary. Do not freeze the skin longer than 20 minutes to reduce the chance of frostbite.

Elevate the Broken Toe Above the Heart

Swelling of the broken toe increases pain by causing congestion around the injured bone and applying constant pressure. Elevate the foot on pillows, a chair, or by any means to reduce swelling and pain. You will require less pain medications, heal faster, and suffer with less soreness and tenderness on movement.

How to Buddy-Tape a Broken Toe

Discoloration of a broken toe
Discoloration of a broken toe | Source
Place gauze or padding between the broken toe and the next larger toe
Place gauze or padding between the broken toe and the next larger toe | Source
Use a band-aid or tape to comfortably tape the toes together
Use a band-aid or tape to comfortably tape the toes together | Source

Identify the Broken or Injured Toe

The swollen, discolored, or deformed toe is most likely the toe that might be broken. Check if you can move it voluntarily. If you can't move it, is if from pain or is the bone broken completely. If the toe bone is no longer attached, seek help from the emergency room. If the toe is completely detached from a break in the bone, you may not be able to set it correctly, it may heal wrong, and you will eventually need surgery to re-break and re-set the toe bone.

Always tape the Broken Toe to the Next Largest Toe

Create a splint with a piece of gauze, cotton, or cloth wrapped around an ice cream stick to set the broken toe in a straight position for healing. Place the splint between the broken toe and the next largest toe.

Tape the Broken Toe and Buddy Toe Together

Wrap the broken toe and buddy toe with band-aids, surgical tape, or cloth tape. Do not use string, rubber bands, or anything else that would cut off circulation. It is very important that you secure the toes well, but observe the color and pay attention to tingling or "pins and needles" in the taped toes. If these signs and symptoms occur, loosen the tape and reapply until the circulation is unaffected but the toes are secure.

Pain Medications

Over-the-counter pain medications should work as directed to ease the pain in your broken toe. The best defense is elevating the foot, applying ice, and resting the foot as much as possible.

Toe Buddy-Taping at a Glance

Prepare Toe for Taping
Tape Broken Toe to Next Largest Toe
Signs and Symptoms
Broken toe is discolored, deformed, swollen or painful
Trim an ice cream stick and cover with guaze or cotton into a splint
Place the splint between the broken and buddy toe
Observe the taped toes for signs and symptoms of impaired circulation
Observe for color changes in taped toes or tingling and "pins and needles"
Remove tape and re-tape with lose tape but secured toes
Elevate affected foot above the heart
Reduce pain and swelling with foot up on pillows in bed or sitting up
Use a crutch or special shoe for walking
Apply ice or ice bath for 20 mins on and 30 minutes off
Reduce pain and swelling without causing frostbite
Take over the counter pain meds as directed if needed
Steps to care for a broken toe

How to Tape a Toe and Walk with a Crutch


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    • profile image

      Abdimanaan 9 months ago

      Who's about to kick a balloon but I actually hit my humidifier and my little toe is hurting really bad it's swollen it's red if I put pressure on it it hurts so what should I do

    • profile image

      Eileen wallace 10 months ago

      I had my toe bleed and taped but wasnt told when to change the tape or if i even should. Ive been given a fracture appointment for 6 days time so do i leave it alone or retape it. Thank you kindly

    • profile image

      Sandra Egan 22 months ago

      Thank you so much for all the good advice. At least I know I can do all these and wait it out. Very informative!!

    • profile image

      owen 3 years ago

      Thank you for the info I broke my pinky toe yesterday and I seen this info and applied it to my foot

    • samihipendo profile image

      Samuil Hippi 3 years ago from Samoah

      Love the "Toe Buddy Taping at a Glance" chart! Very insightful article, I think it can really help people with broken toe! Keep up the good work eHealer!

    • profile image

      Rick 4 years ago

      Nice advise.....IMG_0448.JPG took a slap-shot on my toe then put ice (actually snow) on it w/out realize might add frostbite. This is. 2 days later looks to be getting better. Very little pain so don't think broken. Thank u again for all the info!

    • mr-veg profile image

      mr-veg 4 years ago from Colorado United States

      That's an excellent first aid advice.. !! Voted up and sharing..

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Epi, this means so much to me, you are a true writer and so creative. I really love your work, and am always on the lookout for your hubs. Thank you for your kind words, and everyone here is happy to send you warm wishes as well!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 5 years ago

      Obviously, Deborah, you can write about 'any' subject. I am quite astonished at the wide array on subjects on your page. I have a theory that more things in life can go wrong than right - lol - and your expertise always covers particular ailments and problems we may not necessarily think about - but they do happen - and preventive measures are a good way to ensure better quality living - and better quality living starts right here on your page - and you make it so with your world class writing and your ability to communicate the written word to your fans, friends and followers alike. You truly are the 'healer' and thank you so much to you and your friends for your support of my writing - I really can't do what I do without the inspiration of wonderful people like you - please say hello to everyone for me and I am sending warm wishes and good energy with my 2nd cup of coffee after night shift sleep at 2:18pm lake erie time canada

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks Paradise, I am so sorry about your aunt. I've broken my toes so many times it's amazing that I haven't had the same problem as your aunt. thanks for your great comments, and thanks for caring.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      OUCH! My elderly aunt has a lot of problems stemming from a broken toe. She walked on it for a few days before going to the doctor. It had to be re-broken and re-set, eventually. I'd say, go to the doctor, first, if you suspect the toe is broken.

      EHealer, I'm so sorry about your poor toe! I hope it heals quickly and completely.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hey ESP, I'm so sorry you "cringed." But you had the courage to read this hub! See, how brave you really are! Thanks for you comments, and I appreciate the pins!!

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks Glimmer, I have broken so many toes! In fact, that is my foot in the pictures, I broke my toe a few weeks ago! Always great to see you, and thanks for the pins!

    • ESPeck1919 profile image

      ESPeck1919 5 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Oh, this made me cringe, but the information was great. I've heard of buddy-taping, but never really knew how to do it before. Voted up and pinning. :)

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 5 years ago

      Great illustrations and hub! We could have used this a while ago when we thought our daughter had broken a toe. Shared and pinned!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      So useful and thank you so much for sharing.


    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hello Rajan, so nice to see you as always. Thanks for your support Rajan, see you soon!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Hi Deborah,

      This is certainy useful information on how to treat an injured or possibly broken toe and the way to tape it securely. Really enjoyed learning this.

      Voted up, useful and shared for benefit.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      LOl! :)

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      A bit late but thanks anyway. Broke a toe at Tahoe. (And that wasn't meant to be a rhyme)

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hi Tips, many times a doctor can't do anything for a broken toe, except charge a few hundred dollars in the emergency room! Thanks for your support, you are a great friend!

    • tipstoretireearly profile image

      tipstoretireearly 5 years ago from New York

      Helpful and practical steps to take, especially if a toe were to break in a situation where medical help isn't available--which is when things like this always seem to happen. I especially like the "at a glance" guide!

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks Crystal, Witch Hazel, great Idea! Thanks for adding your great ideas! See you soon at the hubs!!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 5 years ago from Georgia

      THis is very informative. I've had a broken toe before and I've always heard there's nothing you can really do. At least this provides some action to take. I also soaked mine in witch hazel to take away some of the soreness and bruising. Voted up and shared.