Foot or toe bruise quiz
Take a quiz to find out what's causing your foot or toe bruise.
Bruised toes or foot can also be swollen, painful, and often appear purple or blue. A bruised toe can be caused from a broken toe and fracture. A broken foot or ankle can also cause bruises on top of the foot. Read below for more information on causes and treatment options.
6 most common causes
Foot or toe bruise symptoms
A bruise (also known as a contusion) occurs when the small blood vessels in an area of the body are damaged by trauma. This causes blood to seep into the surrounding tissues, causing the red to blue-black color often associated with bruises. A bruise will stay visible until the blood is either absorbed by the surrounding tissue or cleared by the immune system.
In the case of a bruised foot or toe, it is important to be able to differentiate between a sprain and a more severe injury (like a fracture), since both can result in bruising.
Symptoms associated with a sprain
If you have sprained your foot or toe, you will experience:
Symptoms associated with a more severe injury
More serious symptoms include the symptoms above as well as:
If you experience a severe toe or foot injury, seek medical attention immediately. Ankle sprains also require timely medical attention or they can worsen into more severe injury.
Foot or toe bruise causes
The foot is divided into three parts: the forefoot, the midfoot and the hindfoot.
- Forefoot: This contains five long bones called metatarsal bones and 14 toe bones, called phalanges.
- Midfoot: This contains the cuboid, navicular and cuneiform bones that join to form the arch of the foot.
- Hindfoot: This contains the heel, also known as the calcaneus, and the ankle, called the talus.
There are also various ligaments, arteries, and tendons throughout the foot as well. See this image and this image for an easy-to-understand visual representation of the foot. Trauma that causes tearing, stretching or breaking of these ankle components can result in a bruised toe or foot.
Trauma is the main culprit for a toe or foot bruise. As discussed above, trauma can include a sprain or more severe injury such as a fracture.
- Sprain: A sprain is defined by the stretching or tearing of ligaments. The foot and toe have multiple ligaments that can become stretched or torn during activities such as running, jumping or falling, making sprains very common in sports activities.
- Fracture: A fracture is a medical term for a broken bone. When a bone in the toe or foot breaks, it causes injury to any surrounding ligaments, arteries, and tissues resulting in bruising and immediate swelling. A specific type of fracture in the foot or toe, called a stress fracture, frequently occurs in the bones of the forefoot that extend from the toes to the middle of the foot. Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bone surface that can occur with sudden increases in training, such as running or walking for longer distances; improper training techniques; or changes in training surfaces.
This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.
Jones fracture (broken foot)
A Jones Fracture is a fracture of a bone on the outside of the foot (called the fifth metatarsal). A Jones fracture can be either a stress fracture (a tiny hairline break that develops with time), or a sudden break due to trauma. This can result in pain, swelling, and tenderness on the outside of the foot.
Top Symptoms: difficulty walking, constant foot pain, pain in one foot, foot bruise, foot injury
Symptoms that always occur with jones fracture (broken foot): foot pain from an injury, pain when touching the foot, constant foot pain, pain in the front half of the foot, pain in the outside of the foot
Urgency: In-person visit
Broken toes are very common and caused by either something falling on the toe (crush injury) or a stubbing of the toe situation.
You should see your primary care doctor or an urgent care in the next day. X-rays would be taken to determine if it's a fracture or a bad bruise (toe contusion). Treatment is simple, just putting the toe in the right place and taping it to its healthy neighbor toe.
Top Symptoms: constant foot pain, toe injury, toe pain from an injury
Symptoms that always occur with toe fracture: toe injury, toe pain from an injury, constant foot pain
Symptoms that never occur with toe fracture: toe dislocation, toe injury with broken skin
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Toe contusion (bruise) is the damage of the blood vessels (veins and capillaries) that return blood from your tissues back to the heart. The blood pools there and turns blue or purple. It's typically caused by a bump, hit, or fall.
You can safely treat this at home with rest (no exercise), ice (10-20 minutes at a time), compression (via tape or a wrap), and elevation (putting your feet up. Over-the-counter pain medications can also be used if the pain is really bothering you.
Top Symptoms: constant foot pain, toe injury, toe pain from an injury, swollen toes, toe bruise(s)
Symptoms that always occur with toe bruise: toe pain from an injury, toe injury, constant foot pain
The bones of the ankle and foot are held together by ligaments, which are bands of tough tissue. An ankle sprain is a type of injury where one or more of the ligaments is stretched too far, causing tiny fibers in the ligaments to tear. In most cases, the ligament does not tear completely. A sprain is caused by the ligaments being stretched too far or tearing. This can happen when the foot rolls rolls, twists or turns too much.
A foot contusion (bruise) is the result of physical damage to the veins and capillaries (which help move blood back toward the heart). The blood pools in the damaged area and creates that blue/purple color.
You can take care of this at home with rest, ice, keeping your foot up, and over-the-counter pain medication.
Broken foot (navicular bone fracture)
The navicular is one of the bones of the foot.
You should visit your primary care physician. An X-Ray may be helpful to confirm the diagnosis.
Top Symptoms: difficulty walking, constant foot pain, pain in one foot, recent ankle injury, foot pain from overuse
Symptoms that always occur with broken foot (navicular bone fracture): pain in one foot, constant foot pain, recent ankle injury
Urgency: In-person visit
An ankle fracture is a break in 1 or more ankle bones.
You should seek immediate medical care. The ankle will likely be splinted, but in severe cases, surgery may be necessary.
Top Symptoms: difficulty walking, constant ankle pain, swollen ankle, pain in one ankle, ankle pain from an injury
Symptoms that always occur with broken ankle: pain in one ankle, swollen ankle, ankle pain from an injury, constant ankle pain
Urgency: Hospital emergency room
Foot or toe bruise treatments and relief
Bruising related to a sprain can often be treated at home following the advice of your physician. The RICE (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate) mnemonic is an often-used, easy to remember guide for treating a bruised foot or toe.
- Rest: Try to stay off of your foot as much as possible. Your physician may suggest crutches.
- Ice: Put an ice pack on your foot or place it in ice water every 15 minutes in order to reduce any swelling.
- Compression: Protect your foot from unnecessary movement by using a stretchy bandage or compression wrap with a protective brace. Compression like this can also help with swelling.
- Elevation: Raising your ankle above the level of your heart can also help reduce swelling and bruising. Your physician may also prescribe over-the-counter pain relief medications such as ibuprofen. These medications not only help with pain but can also help with swelling and bruising.
When to see a doctor
In the case of a fracture or other injury that does not resolve at home, your physician may also suggest the following:
- Reduction: If the bone is out of place and your toe appears deformed, it may be necessary for your physician to manipulate or "reduce" the fracture. You will be given a local anesthetic to numb your foot, then your physician will manipulate the fracture back into place and straighten your toe.
- Physical therapy: Your physician may prescribe stretching exercises or a physical therapy/rehabilitation program to help you restore range of motion, strength, and stability to your foot or toes.
- Surgery: If at-home remedies, proper treatment and medicinal options from your physician do not provide relief, you and your physician may look into surgical options to better strengthen your foot.
Try the tips and suggestions below to prevent sprains and fractures from happening in the first place.
- Strengthen and stretch: Because weak muscles and mechanical issues are a leading cause of foot pain and injury, it is important to both strengthen and stretch the major muscles of the legs such as the hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves in addition to the ankle and foot. Balance and stability are key in ensuring that your foot and its connecting muscles work together effectively.
- Exercise correctly: Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce extra pressure and stress on the feet, but it is important to use correct form and technique during exercise as well.
FAQs about foot or toe bruise
How long does it take a bruised foot or toe to heal?
Most bruised toes can heal on their own with proper care at home, especially if there is no fracture involved. It usually takes weeks for complete healing; however, pain and swelling can resolve within a few days [4,5]. If an object was dropped on the foot or toe, healing may take longer.
Can you walk with a foot or toe bruise?
Walking with a foot or toe bruise, especially if it is due to a fracture, is not advised. If you experience foot or toe bruising, make an appointment with your physician in order to get proper advice about walking and movement. Walking prematurely may delay the proper healing of the affected foot or toe and cause increased pain.
Is a bruised foot or toe life-threatening?
A bruised foot or toe is usually not life-threatening and very easy to treat. Treatment most often entails rest and minimal movement and activity. For fractured feet or toes, reduction or casting may also be necessary.
When can I return to normal activity after a foot or toe bruise?
Return to normal activity will be dependent on the type, extent, and quality of your bruising, in addition to the specific cause. Your physician and your physical therapist will construct a plan for your recovery and give you specific timelines until you can return to normal activity.
Why does taping my toes together help with recovery?
Taping (also known as “buddy wrapping or taping”) is the act of taping an injured toe together with a healthy toe. The toes will not be able to move, so the healthy toe acts as a splint, keeping the injured toe in the proper position for healing.
Questions your doctor may ask about foot or toe bruise
- Are you having any difficulty walking?
- Did you suffer a sudden, physical injury to your toe(s)?
- Where exactly is the bruising?
- How would you describe your walk?
Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.
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- Blahd WH, Romito K, Husney A, eds. Toe, foot, and ankle injuries. University of Michigan: Michigan Medicine. Updated November 20, 2017. U of M Health Link
- Toe and forefoot fractures. American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. AOFAS Link
- Toe and forefoot fractures. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: OrthoInfo. Updated June 2016. OrthoInfo Link
- Bruise. Institute for Preventive Foot Health. IPFH Link
- Causes of bruises. Institute for Preventive Foot Health. IPFH Link