Turf Toe

Turf toe is a sprain of the base of the big toe where the big toe meets the foot. It is usually a hyperextension sprain of the first joint of the toe. A sprain is stretching or tearing of the ligaments that support a toe. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect bones to each other. The injury is called turf toe because it often occurs in football and soccer players when playing on artificial turf.

  • Causes

    Turf toe occurs when the big toe is forced to extend beyond its normal range of motion. This can be caused by:

    • Standing on the balls of your feet as another person falls onto you, causing your big toe to become hyperextend
    • Stopping suddenly when running, causing your big toe to slide into the end of your shoe and bend up and backward as you go forward

  • Definition

    Turf toe is a sprain of the base of the big toe where the big toe meets the foot. It is usually a hyperextension sprain of the first joint of the toe. A sprain is stretching or tearing of the ligaments that support a toe. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect bones to each other. The injury is called turf toe because it often occurs in football and soccer players when playing on artificial turf.

    Turf Toe Swelling
    Nucleus factsheet image
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and how you injured your toe. An exam of your toe will be done to assess the stability of the joint and the severity of the injury.

    Your doctor may need pictures of your foot. This can be done with:

    • X-ray
    • MRI scan

  • Prevention

    Often, turf toe cannot be prevented. However, to reduce your risk of getting turf toe, wear stiff-soled athletic shoes when playing sports.

    Proper treatment of turf toe can help prevent long-term complications or problems with the toe joint such as misalignment and immobility.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your chances of getting turf toe include:


    • Sports such as:

      • Football
      • Soccer
      • Rugby
      • Basketball
      • Running
      • Gymnastics
      • Dancing
    • Poor coordination
    • Increased ankle dorsiflexion
    • Wearing athletic shoes with flexible soles
    • Playing sports on artificial turf

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms include:

    • Pain and tenderness in the ball of the foot and the big toe
    • Swelling and bruising of the ball of the foot and the big toe
    • Inability to bear weight on the ball of the injured foot
    • Inability to push off on the big toe
    • Reduced range of motion in the big toe

  • Treatment

    Treatment includes:

    Surgery is only needed to repair turf toe if:

    • A small piece of bone has been broken off by the injury to the ligament
    • A ligament is torn completely