What is Turf Toe (And How Can You Prevent It)?

by | Aug 24, 2018

The NFL preseason has been going for a couple of weeks now, which means we aren’t terribly far off from the regular season. When it kicks off, you can root for your favorite team—no matter if you support the Bills, Jets, or any other franchise—and hope your favorite players stay safe.

Of course, there are plenty of opportunities for injury in football. This is a sport, after all, where incredibly large and strong athletes run at each other and collide with tremendous amounts of physical force. Sure, the hope is that everyone is okay after collusions like that, but it’s not always the case.

That being said, football isn’t the only sport where there’s a risk of injury. In fact, you don’t even have to be an athlete in the traditional sense to get hurt. For example, turf toe—the condition we’re discussing today—is something that can even happen to dancers (who usually aren’t thought of as having much in common with football players!).

This means it’s important for athletes of all manors to recognize injuries like turf toe, know when it’s time to seek treatment, and understand the best possible ways to prevent the condition from developing in the first place. Doing so will help you recover from existing injuries and avoid them altogether so you can spend more time participating in your favorite activities!

Turf Toe

Okay, so what is turf toe? You’ve probably heard the term before (and especially if you’re a sports fan), but what actually happens in his injury?

Well, turf toe is a condition wherein the ligaments in the big toe are excessively stretched when the toe extends beyond its intended range of motion. This can happen when the forefoot is planted in the ground—often with an athletic shoe feature spikes or cleats—and the rest of the foot keeps moving forward.

The most common turf toe symptoms include swelling, pain, and limited joint movement in the base of the big toe. Sometimes the condition is caused by overuse or repetitive actions, in which cases the symptoms often have a gradual onset and worsen slowly over time. When the injury is direct, symptoms are more likely to have a sudden appearance and will worsen over the following 24 hours.

No matter the cause and symptoms exhibited, it is important to come see us here at Capital District Podiatry for a proper evaluation and treatment.

The turf toe treatment plan we create will be based on the severity of the injury.

There are essentially three grades (1-3) of turf toe injuries, with Grade 3 being the most severe. For a Grade 1 sprain, we may recommend RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), taping, and medication.

Grade 2 sprains will be treated with similar methods, but also the possible use of a boot to immobilize the affected joint and an extended period of rest.

When it comes to Grade 3 cases of turf toe, we will likely need to provide additional immobilization and may consider surgery (in rare instances).


Due to the nature of the incidents that can lead to turf toe—such as a cleat getting stuck in the ground or a bad turn—it’s impossible to always prevent the injury from happening. That being said, there are way you can at least reduce the risk of it happening. One such approach is to wear athletic shoes that feature better support in the front. Whereas many shoes designed to be worn on turf are very flexible, this lack of support upfront can enable the big toe to bend excessively.

It is also worth taking the time to have us look at your gait pattern and determine if a pair of custom orthotics or shoe inserts might be able to reduce stress from the front of your foot and/or counter any abnormalities that would otherwise increase your risk for this particular injury.

There are also exercises you can use that will strengthen and condition joints in your lower limbs, including the one at the base of the big toe. For specific recommendations, contact our practice.

Just to be clear, you can lower your risk for injuries like turf toe during athletic activities, but it is virtually impossible to completely eliminate injury risk—and especially when it comes to your feet and ankles.

If you ever have a foot or ankle injury—from sporting activities or otherwise—give Capital District Podiatry a call and request an appointment. We will carefully diagnosis your condition and then work to create an effective, customized treatment plan for you.

You can reach us at (518) 273-0053 or connect with either our Troy or Clifton Park offices and request your appointment today via our online form.

Troy Office

763 Hoosick Rd.
Troy, NY 12180

Clifton Park Office

855 Route 146 | Suite 150
Clifton Park, NY 12065

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