Turf Toe

The foot is composed of 26 major and 2 minor bones. That means, your two feet have 25% of all the bones in your body. In addition to these bones, each foot contains thirty-three joints. Five of those joints are made of the bones in the ball of your foot. These are called metatarsal phalangeal joints, or MTPJ’s for short. These joints allow your toes to bend upward, or what is called dorsiflexion. You create this movement by rolling up onto the ball of your feet. Although this movement seems simple, it’s one part of a more complex system of joint movements designed to stabilize your feet as you walk and run.

What is turf toe?
Turf toe is essentially a sprain of the big toe joint or 1st metatarsal phalangeal joint (MTPJ). It occurs when the joint is jammed or excessively bent.

What are the symptoms of turf toe?
Pain in the big toe joint (1st metatarsal phalangeal joint, MTPJ) is the primary symptom of turf toe. Swelling can be present as well. Often, bending the toe or pushing off with the foot will cause the pain. Difficulty bending the toe can be present as well.

How is turf toe diagnosed?
A clinical examination by your doctor is needed to establish the diagnosis of turf toe. Other conditions of pain in the the toe joint include arthritis, bone spurs, fractures of the metatarsal or sesamoids, capsulitis, and tendonitis. X-rays are normally used to help rule out these other causes of joint pain. Sometimes an MRI is needed to evaluate the joint structures more completely.

How is turf toe treated?
The basis of treating turf toe involves reducing inflammation and the mechanical strain on the joint. Ice, anti-inflammatory medication, and sometimes cortisone injections are effective in reducing inflammation and pain. One key component to turf toe treatment is reducing movement of the joint. Stiff sole shoes, a surgical shoe, and sometimes a walking boot are used to limit joint movement and joint pressure. Treatment may also include orthotics to off-weight the toe joint. Rarely would surgery be necessary.

This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any injury or disease. It is intended to serve as an overview of running-related injuries and should not be used as a substitute for sound medical advice from a doctor or therapist.