What is turf toe?

Fact Checked

Turf toe develops after engaging in vigorous upward bending of the big toe. This results to a sprain to the ligaments beneath the base of the big toe. The condition develops as the shoe grips hard on the surface and adheres, thus causing the body weight to move forward and the toe is bent upwards. One is at higher risk if there is increased range of motion in the ankle as well as wearing soft flexible shoes.

If the toe is flexed upwards, this damages the ligaments beneath the toe which become stretched out. Additionally, the bone surfaces at the joint are also damaged. An X-ray is usually required to ensure that there is no fracture present. In case the joint at the base of the big toe comes and goes, usually lasting for a week at a time, without evident cause, gout might be a possible cause for toe pain.


The signs and symptoms include pain and swelling at the big toe joint as well as in the metatarsal bone in the foot. It is important to note that the pain and soreness can be perceived when flexing the toe or when it is pulled upwards.

Turf toe
Apply an ice pack right after the injury. This works by reducing the pain and inflammation to hasten the healing.

In most cases, the ball of the foot is evidently tender. A complete diagnosis is not likely without a scan such as an MRI, but this is not usually needed unless proper treatment is not successful.


Apply an ice pack right after the injury. This works by reducing the pain and inflammation to hasten the healing. A compression bandage must be applied to provide support and protection to the affected toe as well as help minimize the swelling.

The earlier the bandage is applied, it can prevent swelling although it should only be applied for 10 minutes at a time or it can limit the flow of blood to the tissues and cause further damage.

It is vital to get enough rest which might include the use of crutches to take the weight off the toe. A brace can be utilized to protect the toe or at least use a shoe with a firm sole that will not allow it to bend.

The taping technique for turf toe aims on supporting and protecting the toe to prevent it from flexing in the direction that stresses the toe ligament which results to pain.

Medical treatment

The doctor might require an X-ray to check for any fractures. Remember that a broken toe might have symptoms that are the same as a severe turf toe. Ultrasound or other electrotherapy therapy are used to minimize the pain and swelling as well as promote healing. After 2-4 days, the individual might be able to bear weight again.

A rehabilitation and strengthening program might be recommended. This usually includes foot and toe exercises to strengthen the affected foot. Recovery usually takes 3-4 weeks depending on the severity of the sprain.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on turf toe is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage tendon and ligament injuries including turf toe, register for a first aid and CPR course with Red Deer First Aid.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top

The information posted on this page is for educational purposes only.
If you need medical advice or help with a diagnosis contact a medical professional

  • All firstaidreddeer.ca content is reviewed by a medical professional and / sourced to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

  • We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable websites, academic research institutions and medical articles.

  • If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please contact us through our contact us page.