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A broken pinky toe can cause significant pain, swelling, and difficulty walking. Rest and toe support can aid recovery and protect against complications.
Some broken toes can be easily treated at home. However, severe symptoms may require a checkup to monitor healing or prevent complications.
This article reviews the symptoms, causes, and treatment of broken pinky toes.
You may have noticed broken toe symptoms when injured, such as pain or a grinding or snapping noise. Other symptoms of a broken pinky toe can include:
- continued pain
- skin discoloration or redness
- the toe appears crooked or different from its usual shape
- pain or difficulty when moving the toe or placing weight on it
Some people suggest that being able to walk means your toe may not be broken. However, the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons notes that this is a myth.
When to See a Doctor
Contact your doctor if you have any broken toe symptoms, including if:
- symptoms of pain and swelling haven’t started to improve within 2–3 days of the injury
you continue to have symptoms weeks after the injury, such as pain when walking or difficulty moving the toe
- you have an open wound, or the injury broke the skin
- you have diabetes and toe symptoms
- you have questions about your symptoms
Some cases of broken toes require immediate care. Visit your local urgent care or call 911 if:
- your toe is misshapen or is at an unusual angle
- you can see bone
- you feel tingling or numbness in your toe or foot
- you heard a snap, grinding, or pop when the injury occurred
- you believe your big or first toe may be broken
Can a broken pinky toe heal on its own?
While some mild toe breaks or injuries may heal on their own with at-home care, it’s best to contact a doctor if you suspect a break. Untreated breaks can lead to complications, such as chronic pain or impaired healing.
Doctors can assess the severity of the injury and provide treatment.
Broken pinky toes are often caused by a direct blow or injury, such as:
- dropping something on the toe
- accidentally stubbing your toe
- kicking something hard
Also, other conditions may cause the same symptoms as a broken toe, such as the following:
A sprain is when the ligaments, which connect the bones, become torn or stretched. A pinky toe sprain may occur if the toe is hit or twisted or you fall over.
Symptoms can be similar to a broken pinky toe and may include:
- swelling or bruising
- difficulty moving the toe a tearing or popping sound when you became injured
Treatment for a sprain can include:
- resting the toe
- applying a cool compress
- wearing a bandage or splint
- anti-inflammatory or pain relief medication
A toe fracture is when a toe bone cracks rather than breaks. Sometimes, a fracture can be displaced, in which pieces of broken bone may have separated.
Fractures may develop from one direct injury or repetitive activity, known as a stress fracture. Fractured toe symptoms can include pain, swelling, and difficulty walking.
Treatment for a fractured toe can include:
- resting the toe
- wearing a bandage, cast, or walking boot
- pain relief medication
Dislocation is when the bones come out of position in the joint. It can occur due to a direct injury or fall. Symptoms of dislocated pinky toe include:
- a visible change in the shape of the joint or toe
- difficulty moving the toe or walking
Treatment for dislocated bones can include:
- resting the toe
- strapping the toe to the next toe for support
- wearing a splint or bandage
- pain medication
Differences in toe structure
Hammer toe, claw toe, and mallet toe occur when the toes can become bent out of their typical shape. They can be caused by:
- muscle and pressure imbalances
- wearing improperly fitting shoes or shoes that apply pressure
- nerve damage
Also, some people may be born with an overlapping toe, whereby the pinky toe rests over the fourth toe.
Because these conditions can change the shape of the toe and cause soreness or difficulty walking, they can resemble a broken toe.
Treatment toe structural differences can include:
- wearing sturdy, properly-fitting shoes
- conducting exercises to strengthen the toe and feet muscles
- over-the-counter (OTC) straps, splints, cushions, or corn pads
Corns or bunions
Corns are a hardened buildup of skin formed by persistent pressure or friction. Bunions form when bone or tissue around a joint swells due to genetics and tight shoes.
Corns and bunions can cause the toe to:
- appear a different shape
- be painful
Treatment for corns and bunions can include:
- wearing properly fitting shoes
- OTC products such as cushions or toe spacers
- corn removal by a podiatrist or chiropodist
Surgery may be an option for severe bunions.
Broken pinky toe treatment and management
Treatment will depend on the severity of the break. A healthcare team can X-ray the toe, which can also help rule out other conditions like fractures.
You may be able to heal some broken pinky toes at home. If your break is mild, your doctor may recommend:
- resting the toe
- avoiding unnecessary walking or weight-bearing
- placing a small, clean piece of gauze or cotton between the pinky toe and the next toe and gently taping them together for support
- wearing comfortable, well-secured, nonrestrictive shoes
- taking OTC medications to relieve pain
If you have a more severe injury, your medical team may also suggest:
- wearing a protective boot or brace around the foot
- surgery for multiple breaks or if other treatment doesn’t help
- antibiotics for any bacterial infection
- nail removal
How not to care for a broken toe
When caring for a broken pinky toe, the NHS recommends not to:
- strap up or apply pressure to your toe if it’s misshapen or at an unusual angle
- apply ice directly on the skin
- stand or walk for long periods
- wear tight or pointed shoes
- play contact sports until the pain has resolved
- treat a child’s toe without talking with a doctor first
According to the NHS, broken toes typically heal within 4–6 weeks. However, healing can take several months for some people.
Without effective treatment, you may experience long-term complications such as:
- toe deformity
- limited range of motion
- persistent pain
A broken pinky toe may be painful, swollen, and bruised.
Some cases can be easily cared for at home with toe taping, rest, and OTC pain medications. However, talk with a doctor if you suspect a broken toe. Severe or untreated breaks may lead to long-term effects such as persistent pain or limited use.
Contact your doctor if you have any broken pinky toe symptoms.
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