by EBSCO Medical Review Board
(Metatarsalphalangeal Joint Sprain; Sprain Big Toe)


Turf toe is a sprain of the main joint in the big toe. The sprain is stretching or tearing of the bands of tissue that support the toe.

Turf Toe Swelling
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Turf toe happens when the first joint of the big toe is forced past its normal range of motion. It can happen when the foot is on the ground, the heel is raised, and a person falls onto you. It may also be caused by stopping too suddenly when running.

Risk Factors

Things that raise the risk of turf toe are:

  • Activities, such as:
    • Football
    • Soccer
    • Rugby
    • Basketball
    • Running
    • Gymnastics
    • Dancing
  • Playing sports on artificial turf
  • Wearing the wrong type of sports shoes


Problems may be:

  • Pain in the ball of the foot and the big toe
  • Swelling and bruising of the ball of the foot and the big toe
  • Problems putting weight on the foot
  • Problems pushing off on the big toe
  • Limited range of motion in the big toe


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked how you injured the toe. An exam of your toe will be done.

Images of the foot may be taken. This can be done with:


The goal of treatment is to ease pain and improve movement. This can be done with:

  • Supportive care, such as ice and rest
  • Medicine to ease pain and swelling
  • A pad to cushion the area under the toe
  • Stiff-soled shoes or shoe inserts to keep the toe moving too much
  • Physical therapy

A person with a severe sprain may need a walking boot or cast. Some people may need surgery. This is not common.


The risk of turf toe may be lowered by wearing stiff-soled shoes when playing sports.


American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 


British Columbia Podiatric Medical Association 

Canadian Orthopaedic Association 


Hossain M, Clutton J, et al. Stress Fractures of the Foot. Clin Sports Med. 2015 Oct;34(4):769-790.

Stress fractures of the foot and ankle. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated March 20, 2017. Accessed May 12, 2020.

Turf toe. Foot Health Facts—American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons website. Available at: Accessed May 12, 2020.

Turf toe. Ortho Info—American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: Published June 2019. Accessed May 12, 2020.

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