How to Tape Turf Toe

Many of us take walking for granted, but as soon as you injure your foot, you gain a whole new perspective you likely never wanted. One common foot injury that can instantly turn walking into a major pain is turf toe. Turf toe is a fancy way of saying you sprained your big toe. 

How You Get Turf Toe

turf tape

Turf toe is most common among professional athletes, specifically football players, which is a little ironic considering all the safety gear and turf tape they wear. However, people participating in any sport or physical activity can also acquire this injury. Turf toe injuries occur when the toe hyperextends towards the foot (strenuously pulled upwards). This generally happens when you push off the ground with the front of your foot with force. The upward motion sprains the big toe by excessively stretching or tearing the ligaments, tendons, and soft tissue of the big toe.

Identifying Turf Toe

Symptoms of turf toe can vary depending on the severity of the sprain. Symptoms can include pain, swelling, bruising, inability to bend/place weight on the toe, soreness to the touch, and limited movement. Unfortunately, turf toe is often mistaken for a broken toe. The primary indicator that you have turf toe rather than a broken toe is the range of motion. If the toe breaks, you won't be able to move it. If it's turf toe, you should be able to move the joint minimally, even if it's painful. Another identifiable feature of turf toe is feeling a pop when the injury occurs, but not all patients experience this.

Turf Toe Severity & Healing Time

Turf toe cases are divided into three grades based on their severity, and each grade has a tentative healing time. 

Grade 1

Ligaments around the big toe have been stretched rather than torn. There may be pain, slight swelling, and tenderness. The injury will partially or fully heal within a week. 

Grade 2

The ligament has partially torn. This causes pain, swelling, bruising, and decreased movement in the toe. This grade of injury may take approximately two weeks to heal.

Grade 3

Severe ligament tearing makes it nearly or entirely impossible to move the toe. Pain, swelling, and bruising will be present. Kick back and relax because you're going to be here a while. You'll be out of the game anywhere from 2 to 6 months before you completely heal.

Turf Toe Treatments

turf toe treatment

For grade one and two turf toe injuries, treatment is pretty simple. Treatment includes rest, elevating the injured foot, ice, compression sleeves, and Ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation. You should also avoid placing pressure on the injured foot as much as possible. Taping the toe can relieve stress, stabilize the entire foot, reduce pain, and keep the injury from moving unnecessarily. Severe, grade 3 turf toe cases may require surgery. If it's excruciatingly painful, visit the doctor and have them assess the injury.

However, healing requires sitting on the sidelines and taking it easy. If you are stubborn and decide to tough it out, it can prolong the healing process or worsen the injury.

Taping Turf Toe

Taping the toe is as simple as creating anchors, the brace, and locking the anchors in place. Note that it is easier to apply this to someone else than yourself. You may want to grab a buddy for this!

  1. Keep your toe in a neutral, straight position. Create the first anchor by circling the base of the toe with tape. Larger toes will need two pieces of overlapping tape for extra stability.  
    taped turf toe
  2. Create the second anchor by spreading the toes and taping around the foot's arch.
  3. Connect the two anchors by adding several pieces of vertical, overlapping tape to the bottom of the foot. This will be the support brace.
  4. Lock the brace into place by repeating steps one and two. 
  5. Over time the tape may become loose or dirty. When this happens, replace it as necessary.
  6. Leave the wrap on until the toe heals.

Check and make sure the tape isn't too tight or loose. If it's too tight, blood won't be able to flow to the toe properly. You can assess this by pressing against the side of the toe and turning the site white. Once released, the spot will flush red after a few seconds. The tape is too tight and needs replacing if the site remains white. A throbbing sensation in the toe also signals that the wrap is too restricting. Alternatively, if the toe can bend, the bandage is too loose and needs redoing.

Preventing Turf Toe

Whether you've had turf toe in the past or are just hearing about it, you'll want to take the right steps moving forward to avoid it. Here are some easy dos and don'ts to keep your feet in one piece

  • Stretch before working out. This will help you evade injuries in your feet as well as all your muscles. 
  • Wear shoes with inflexible soles and keep your toes neutral.
  • Ask your doctor for specially designed orthotics if you think you need them. These are inserts for your shoes that help treat various biomechanical issues.
  • If you've had turf toe before, take precautions when doing any high-intensity exercise or sport. This ranges from good shoes to bracing your toe. 
  • Cross-train when possible to give your feet a break. Swimming and cycling are fantastic alternatives.


taping turf toe

  • Don't wear shoes with flexible soles.
  • Avoid wearing cleats if possible. Cleats grab the ground beneath the foot and leave you prone to injury. 
  • Never work out in bare feet. Wearing shoes helps prevent turf toe and various other injuries. You never know what's on the floor! One of the few exceptions to this is yoga.
  • Try not to pound your feet against hard surfaces, such as concrete or turf. Natural grass is the best, while carpet, rubber, and wood surfaces are preferable to concrete.
  • If you're in pain, don't ignore it! Address it yourself, if possible, or see a professional.

Turf toe isn't fun, but you'll be set for your next game with the proper protection, prevention, and treatment! Turf toe is one thing, but turf burns are also a huge pain. Make sure you're protected against nasty turf burns with My Medic’s SuperSkin turf tape. It's the touchdown product your need for your next game!

Author | Allison Lee

I'm Allison, a content writer at My Medic. My passion is empowering others with first aid knowledge and skills through my writing.

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