What you should know about a broken pinky toe

What you should know about a broken pinky toe

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A broken pinky toe is a fracture of the smallest toe. The term “broken toe” usually describes a traumatic fracture, which can occur due to a direct blow or impact, such as stubbing the toe or dropping something on it. The pinky toe is a commonly broken toe, and the fracture usually occurs at its base.

This article looks at the symptoms of a broken small toe, along with some other problems that can cause pain and swelling in the area. It also examines the treatment and management options for this injury.

Symptoms of a broken pinky toe

The most common symptoms of a broken pinky toe include:

  • a snapping, grinding, or popping noise at the time of the break
  • pain at the place of impact at the time the fracture occurs
  • the toe appearing to be crooked
  • redness, bruising, and swelling

If there is an open wound, a person should seek immediate medical attention to prevent infection.

Other causes of pain and swelling

Other than a broken pinky toe, there are many reasons a person might have pain or swelling in their smallest toe. People can treat most of these causes at home. However, if home remedies do not seem to be working, it is important to see a doctor, as the issue could turn out to be something more serious.

The following sections outline some other causes of pain and swelling in the pinky toe in more detail.

Stress fracture

A stress fracture, or a hairline fracture, is a small crack or severe bruising within a bone. It is slightly different from a traumatic fracture, as it usually occurs due to overuse and repetitive activity.


  • pain during or after performing normal activities
  • pain that goes away when resting but returns when standing or during activity
  • painful to the touch
  • swelling but no bruising


According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), the most important treatment for a stress fracture is rest.

Advising that it takes up to 8 weeks for most fractures to heal, the AAOS warn against resuming the activity that caused the stress fracture to occur too quickly. They warn that this could lead to long-term problems. As well as resting, using shoe inserts or braces can help stress fractures heal.


A sprain occurs when there is damage to a ligament. Ligaments are the bands of tough, elastic connective tissue that connect the bones in the toes to each other.


  • pain
  • swelling
  • difficulty walking
  • tender to the touch

The AAOS categorize sprains into three grades:

  • Grade I: This is characterized by overstretched ligaments, a minimal loss of function, and mild pain.
  • Grade II: This is characterized by a partially torn ligament, moderate pain, and difficulty putting weight on the toe.
  • Grade III: This is characterized by a complete tear of the ligament, severe pain, a total loss of function, and an inability to bear weight.


Treatment depends on the severity of the sprain but could include:

  • resting the toe
  • icing the toe
  • wearing a compression sock
  • using crutches to aid walking
  • taking pain relief medication
  • using a walking boot, which is a stiff boot that protects the toe as it heals


A dislocation is a complete separation of the bones in a joint. The bones then move out of their normal position.


  • severe pain
  • deformity or displacement of the toe
  • swelling and bruising
  • numbness or tingling
  • difficulty moving the toe


  • “buddy” taping it to an adjacent toe
  • using a splint
  • wearing a cast
  • trying a walking boot


A bunion is a painful, bony bump on the toe joint. A bunion on the pinky toe is called a tailor’s bunion. Historically, this name comes from the tailors who sat cross-legged all day, with the outside edge of their feet rubbing on hard surfaces.


  • a visible bump on the outside of the pinky toe
  • pain and tenderness at the site of the bump
  • redness and inflammation
  • a callus or corn on the bump


  • making shoe modifications, such as wearing wider-fitting footwear
  • using bunionette pads
  • taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen

In some cases, corticosteroid injections can help treat the inflamed tissue around the joint. Surgery may be necessary in severe cases.


Corns are hard, thickened areas of skin that form as a result of friction or pressure. Corns are the foot’s natural defense to help protect the skin underneath them. They are a response to bone pressure against the skin.

Corns may develop on the tops and sides of the toes and on the balls of the feet.


  • a hardened patch of skin
  • open sores between the toes
  • pain when wearing shoes


  • shaving the corn, but only when a health professional carries it out
  • soaking the feet and using a pumice stone on the corn
  • wearing a donut shaped foam pad over the corn to reduce the pressure

It is best to visit a doctor as soon as someone suspects that there is something wrong. This is particularly important if a person hears a snapping, grinding, or popping noise at the time of the break.

If a person leaves a broken toe untreated, it can get worse and cause lasting problems.

Diagnosing a broken pinky toe

The doctor will examine the foot, gently pressing on different areas to find out where there is pain. They will also order X-rays. Additional imaging studies may be necessary if the initial X-ray does not show anything.


It is a myth that nothing can mend broken toes. In fact, leaving them without treatment can lead to future complications. Healing of a broken toe may take 6–8 weeks.

A person may need to have their broken toe buddy taped to an adjacent one. Wearing a stiff-soled shoe can also help, as can using crutches to help keep weight off of the toe while it heals.

Rarely, a person may need to wear a cast to keep the foot immobile. Surgery may be necessary if there are multiple breaks or if nonsurgical treatment does not work. Also, if a fracture leads to large amounts of blood underneath the nail, a person may need to take antibiotics and undergo nail removal.

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