How Is Turf Toe Treated?

Do you suddenly have an aching, throbbing pain in your toe after running or playing in grass? There's a good chance you have a condition called turf toe. It's most common in football players, but it can happen to anyone who runs, kicks, and otherwise gets physical activity on their feet. It's actually a sprain of the ligaments connected to the big toe. In other words, it's a toe version of a sprained ankle! Turf toe can be pretty painful, and it can also cause some significant inflammation. However, there are a few treatment options to explore with a sports medicine doctor.


RICE stands for "rest, ice, compression, elevation." This has long been the go-to, first-level treatment for minor orthopedic injuries. If your turf toe is on the mild side, your sports medicine doctor may simply recommend following the RICE protocol for about one to two weeks. Stay off your foot as much as possible, ice your toe two or three times per day, for about 20 minutes at a time. Your sports medicine doctor can show you how to wrap your toe up in a compressed bandage to ease inflammation. Finally, you can spend an hour or so each evening with your foot elevated. 

Walking Boot

If your turf toe is a little more severe, or if a week of RICE does not help considerably, your sports medicine doctor may want you to wear a walking boot for a few weeks. This will further reduce the strain on your toe while enabling you to go through the day and complete your basic tasks. You may have several checkups with your doctor to check the progress of your healing. Once the toe is fully healed, you can stop wearing the boot and slowly work your way back to your previous physical activity.


The most serious cases of turf toe may need to be addressed surgically. Usually, this is only necessary if you have actually torn — not strained — the ligaments in your toe. The surgery can usually be done on an outpatient basis with a local anesthetic to numb your foot. Through a small incision, your doctor will repair the ligament. You'll then need to stay off your foot for up to 6 weeks as the ligament heals before slowly resuming activity.

Most cases of turf toe are relatively minor and resolve within a week with RICE treatment. Occasionally, patients need to wear a boot, and only in very rare cases do they need surgery.