Broken Toe: The Breakdown

Seven weeks post-toe break and I’m feeling restless.

It all started around mile 2 of the XTERRA Trout Creek 5K trail run (see race post here) on March 6, 2011 when I hit my toe on a tree root and went down. Since I was wearing Vibram Sprints, I actually felt extreme pain when I hit the tree root, but I continued running throughout the final mile of the race. After crossing the finish line, I had difficulty walking. By the time I got home, my toe had tripled in size and my foot began turning colors. In my living room, I accidentally tapped the cat scratching post with my toe and dropped down in extreme pain. I took a shower, took some Tylenol, and put ice on it.

It was suggested to me that I broke my toe, but I had no gauge as to what that meant. I figured it would be uncomfortable for a while, but I would be back to running and martial arts in a few weeks.

Foot Boot

I already had a foot boot from a previous injury, so I wore that since my foot didn’t fit in a shoe. I was told to buddy-tape my toe, but that proved difficult because I couldn’t move my toes apart enough to wrap tape around them.

Six days after the race, I went to Kung Fu practice because I was determined to learn Part 2 of the Hsing Yi seminar. I figured I would be okay because the form involved a lot of arm movement rather than leg stances and kicks. Silly me. Just the act of standing and moving was excruciating. Bad decision. I went home, took Tylenol, took a shower, and put ice on it.

I stayed in the boot for 3 weeks, then squeezed my foot into sneakers. I should have stayed in the boot for another week or two. By week four post-race, I was getting discouraged. I didn’t understand why I was still in so much pain while at rest. I talked to other people who said they had broken a toe and they told me it shouldn’t still hurt so much. So, I went to a foot doctor, had some x-rays taken, and was told that I had a “fourth toe proximal phalanx spiral extra-articular fracture in the distal one-third aspect of the bone”. So, in words the rest of us understand, I broke it completely in half?


I was told I would be in pain for a while longer and the pain was completely normal. They wanted to see me back in 4 weeks for more x-rays.

I had the bright idea of biking a few miles around 5 weeks post-break. Yet another bad idea. Apparently, trying to pedal with my heel still somehow made my toe throb. Oops.

After 5 weeks and 3 days, I experienced a significant decrease in pain. It no longer hurt to sit still. I still couldn’t spread my toes or curl them, but I could lift them up a little. This was promising. I celebrated by walking around a Renaissance festival for 6 hours during my sixth week post-break. My toe was throbbing after 2 hours.

So, here I sit (literally) at 7 weeks. My toe is down to twice its normal size and my foot discoloration is gone. I can spread my toes most of the way apart and I can lift my toes up, although I feel stiffness while doing so and a residual throbbing after trying. I still cannot curl them for 2 reasons: 1) pain and 2) they just won’t seem to go that way. I have to stick with sneakers because, apparently, wearing flip-flops or open-toe shoes involves a toe curling action that I was not aware of under normal circumstances.

Week 8 will be spent wandering around Seattle and Vancouver. So, take THAT fourth toe! Please don’t let me down!

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Author: Michele

Co-Founder of 615media. Married to Eric. Strong attachment to coffee. Occasional blogger. Social media and marketing consultant. Website designer and manager. Recent masters grad. Toddler mom.

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  • Patti

    I think I have a very similiar 4th toe which is broken. I am wondereing how your pain is now about 4 months out from injury. I am just over 3 weeks post injury and still in a fair amount of pain and itching to put the running shoes on, but the discomfort is too much at this point.

    • I’m just under 4 months and I have not tried running yet, although I am slowly getting back into Kung Fu (staying away from jumps and sparring for now). It is still swollen at about twice its normal size, but my comfort level has significantly improved. I assume that the rate of healing ultimately depends on the type of break you incur, but I completely understand your restlessness! Your best bet might be to get an x-ray to be sure. That way, you’ll know not to push yourself too quickly if it is, in fact, broken. [Disclaimer: I am not a physician. ;)] Good luck and let me know how everything turns out!

      • Gchiker3

        thanks for your response – i did get an xray and it is indeed broken. I have made an appt to see a podiatrist who specializes in runners with injuries. I will let you know if he has any thoughts other than TIME -TIME -TIME. boo hoo:(

        • I’m so sorry to hear that! Definitely keep me updated! I finally tried running yesterday. New post coming soon on that! 🙂

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