Read below about toe pain, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your toe pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Toe Pain Symptoms

There are many conditions that cause toe pain including medical illnesses, acute toe injuries, and chronic foot and toe problems leading to pain. Common chronic causes of toe pain include bunions, toe deformities, and toenail problems. Common toe injuries include sprain and fracture. Common medical problems leading to toe pain symptoms include gout, diabetes, and arthritis. Additionally, warts, corns, or calluses can cause toe pain. Some causes of toe pain like mild injuries can be treated at home with rest and ice. Most other causes of toe pain symptoms, including chronic issues, medical illnesses, or serious injuries require a doctor to diagnose and treat the condition.

Symptoms that can be associated with toe pain include:

Toe Pain Causes Overview

There are many different causes of toe pain, including chronic toe conditions that cause pain, acute injuries that lead to toe pain, and medical illnesses that can cause toe pain among other symptoms.

Chronic foot or toe conditions:

  • Bunions: A bunion is a malformation of the foot that causes the big toe to point inwards and leads to pain and difficulty walking. The cause of this deformity is unknown, but it increases with age.
  • Toe Deformity: There are several common toe deformities including hammer toe that can cause toe pain symptoms. Typically, these deformities arise from injury, inflammation, or trauma to the foot, although some are genetic. Diabetes and arthritis predispose patients to these types of deformities.
  • Nerve Problem: Compression of nerves in the foot can lead to toe pain. Typically, the pain associated with nerve compression is described as a burning sensation and is located in between toes.
  • Toenail Problems: There are multiple possible issues with the toenail that can cause toe pain. Ingrown toenails occur when the toenail pierces the skin around the nail leading to inflammation and possible infection. A hematoma can form underneath the nail if the setting of trauma which can cause pain and discoloration.

Injuries or acute toe conditions:

  • Fracture: Pain in the toe in the setting of trauma to the forefoot raises concern for a toe fracture. Typically, a fracture would present with acute pain, swelling, and possibly deformity to the area. Stress fractures in the toe may happen over time in the setting of overuse and would also cause pain and swelling to the affected toe.
  • Sprain: The most common type of toe sprain occurs with hyperextension of the big toe and is common among soccer or football players.
  • Warts: Warts can form on the bottom of the toes or feet, leading to toe pain. Warts are caused by a virus called HPV type 1. Calluses or corns are small lesions that form on the bottom of the toes or feet from excess pressure to the bottom of the foot and can be mistaken for warts but are not caused by a virus.

Medical conditions:

  • Gout: Gout typically causes intense pain in the large toe joint. Gout is a disease in which crystals deposit in the joint causing inflammation and pain. While gout can cause pain in other joints, the big toe joint is the most common location.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis causes pain and stiffness in the joints, particularly common in the finger and toe joints.
  • Diabetes: Over time, diabetes affects the nerves in the feet, which can lead to pain, burning, or numbness in the toes and feet. Because the toes may be numb, patients with diabetes are at higher risk of developing ulcers or sores on their feet or toes that go unnoticed. These have the potential to become infected and can be limb threatening.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Toe Pain

Updated on Aug. 29, 2018

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced toe pain. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Toe Bruise

    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.

    2-3 days

    Rarity:
    Rare
    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
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Morton Neuroma

    Morton neuroma is nerve damage between the 2nd and 3rd toes, often found in women who run or wear tight high heels.

    Almost all patients do well with conservative (non-surgical) treatment

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    foot numbness, pain in the sole of the foot, pain when touching the foot, pain in both feet, foot injury
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  3. 3.Gout

    Gout is a form of arthritis that causes sudden pain, stiffness, and swelling in a joint. The big toe is often affected.

    With proper medical attention, relief is possible within the first 24 hours of treatment.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    swollen toes
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Toe Fracture

    Broken toes are very common and caused by either something falling on the toe (crush injury) or a stubbing of the toe situation.

    Up to 6 weeks to heal

    Rarity:
    Common
    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 Pain Checker

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  5. 5.Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint but is common in the wrist and fingers. RA is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that it is caused by the immune system incorrectly attacking the joints when it shouldn't.

    RA is a chronic disease which requires lifelong control.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, joint pain, muscle aches, daytime sleepiness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Psoriatic Arthritis

    Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales. Some people who have psoriasis also get a form of arthritis (inflammation and swelling of joints) called psoriatic arthritis.

    This type of arthritis can be managed with treatment, and permanent damage can be prevented. However, the underlying cause (psoriasis) is currently incurable.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    shoulder pain, lower back pain, joint pain, upper back pain, hip pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Raynaud Phenomenon

    Primary Raynaud phenomenon is a disorder of the blood vessels, usually in the fingers and toes, which causes the blood vessels to narrow when feeling cold or stressed. When this happens, blood can't get to the surface of the skin and the affected areas turn white and blue.

    This condition is considered irreversible, but it should not prevent you from living a healthy life.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    distal numbness, cold toe, cold fingers, spontaneous toe pain, spontaneous finger pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  8. 8.Nail Infection (Paronychia)

    Paronychia is an infection of the nail folds, typically caused by Staph. Aureus. Or a fungus.

    Great prognosis. Recovery in the next two weeks

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    spontaneous finger pain, fingernail pain, fingernail swelling
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit

Toe Pain Treatments and Relief

Some causes of toe pain can be treated at home. Minor injuries such as sprains can be treated with rest and ice, as well as over the counter pain medications. For more serious injuries such as fracture, seek medical attention. For other chronic causes of toe pain, a visit to the doctor may be helpful in diagnosing and treating the pain. If you suspect a medical illness is the cause of your toe pain, a visit to the doctor will likely help diagnose and treat the toe pain symptoms.

If you have diabetes and you have an ulcer or wound on your foot, seek treatment promptly. Diabetic foot ulcers can become infected and be limb-threatening.

Home toe pain treatments include:

  • Over-the-counter pain medication : If your toe pain is due to an acute or chronic injury, over the counter pain medication such as ibuprofen (an NSAID) or acetaminophen may help relieve the symptoms.
  • Rest : If your toe pain is related to sports or exercise, taking a break from the activity that causes pain may help with recovery.
  • Ice : If your toe pain is related to inflammation or minor injury such as a sprain, placing ice on the area may help to alleviate pain.

Medical professional toe pain treatments include:

  • Steroid Infection : In some cases of toe pain, an injection of steroids may reduce inflammation and help the pain. Your doctor can help determine if this is the appropriate treatment for your toe pain symptoms.
  • Medications : If your toe pain is due to gout, diabetes, or arthritis, your doctor may prescribe medication to control your illness that will help control the symptom of toe pain. If your doctor suspects an infection in your toe or foot, they may prescribe antibiotics.
  • Orthotics or Special Shoes : If your doctor suspects your toe pain is due to bunions or another deformity, they may suggest orthotic shoe inserts or even special shoes to help with the toe pain symptoms.
  • Wart Removal : If your toe pain is due to warts, your doctor may suggest wart removal. There are multiple different types of removal, and your doctor can help you figure out the best one for your condition.
  • Surgery : If you doctor determines a bunion or other structural issue is the cause of your toe pain, they may recommend surgical correction. A podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon can help determine if surgery is the appropriate treatment for your toe pain.

FAQs About Toe Pain

Here are some frequently asked questions about toe pain.

Why does my toe hurt at night?

Morton's neuroma and diabetic neuropathy can both cause pain in the toes and feet that is worse at night. Morton's neuroma is caused by overly tight shoes and overpronation of the foot. It can occur between the first and third interdigital spaces or the second and fourth interdigital spaces and radiate toward the toes. Diabetic neuropathy is caused by long-standing diabetes and can cause loss of pain or vibratory sense in the toes, leading to ulcer formation.

Why do my toes curl up?

Claw toes are a type of toe contracture in which the metatarsophalangeal joint faces upward. They are more common in women and more common in individuals in their 7th decade (60s). Younger patients have a higher chance of having a secondary cause of claw toes. This includes disorders like inflammatory arthropathies (rheumatoid arthritis or RA), diabetic neuropathy, or a neuromuscular condition.

What causes pain in the toes while walking?

Many things can cause pain in the toes while walking, including a deviation of the joint or damage to a joint from stress over a long time, an infection or inflammation because of an overactive immune system, a tightening of some of the connective tissue that fixes a toe in a particular position, as well as common trauma to a bone or nail. A common cause of pain while walking is metatarsalgia, which happens when the structure of the foot is changing and the foot becomes less able to support changes. It is often described as feeling as if one is stepping on a stone. Appropriate diagnosis of foot pain requires diagnosis by a general practitioner or a podiatrist.

Can ingrown toenails cause toe pain?

Yes, an ingrown toenail is caused when a nail plate punctures part of the nail fold and causes inflammation. They can also cause infection. Usually, an ingrown toenail is slightly red, swollen, and tender to touch or pressure. Mild cases can be soaked or pulled out of the tissue with sterile items, and anything more severe may require a quick medical procedure done in a physician or podiatrist's office.

Why can't I feel my toes?

You may not be able to feel your toes for a variety of reasons. The most common reason for loss of sensation is cold temperature. Cold temperature causes a constriction of blood vessels that carry blood to the toes, and cold temperatures also tend to slow down nerve impulses to a particular part of the body, including but not limited to the toes. Other causes of sudden onset of loss of toe sensation may need immediate evaluation.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Toe Pain

  • Q.Did you recently injure your foot?
  • Q.Have you ever been told you have flat feet?
  • Q.How would you explain the cause of your foot pain?
  • Q.Has a bunion formed on your foot?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our toe pain symptom checker to find out more.

Toe Pain Quiz

Toe Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced toe pain have also experienced:

    • 15% Swollen Toes
    • 12% Big Toe Pain
    • 5% Toe Redness
  • People who have experienced toe pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 32% Over a Month
    • 26% Less Than a Week
    • 22% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced toe pain were most often matched with:

    • 60% Gout
    • 20% Toe Bruise
    • 20% Morton Neuroma
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having toe pain

Toe Pain Quiz