Toe Pain: Treatment, Symptoms, and Causes

Toe pain is a specific type of foot pain that can be particularly difficult to live with. Our toes bend while we walk, hold pressure while we stand and move, and need to be flexible in order for us to keep our balance. If you are suffering from pain in your toes, these simple things become difficult.

There are a variety of reasons that people suffer from toe pain. Whether from an injury, trauma, or chronic pain, there are toe pain treatment options available to alleviate the pain.

Toe Pain Symptoms

Depending on the cause of the pain, symptoms can vary to include other characteristics.  Other symptoms associated with toe pain include:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Discoloration
  • Visible misalignment
  • Bumps
  • Tenderness
  • Redness and swelling

Because our toes are made up of bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles, there are a variety of symptoms that you may feel in addition to the pain. These are all important to discuss with your chiropodist during an appointment for diagnosis to ensure all the symptoms are treated and alleviated as best as possible.

Common Causes of Toe Pain

There are a variety of causes of toe pain that might be contributing to your symptoms. Pain in the toe can be a symptom of different illnesses and conditions and needs to be properly diagnosed by a professional before it can be treated.

These are some of the most common causes of toe pain that we see at our office.


Trauma can occur when the toe is struck by an object or stubbed. This includes an injury or fracture from playing sports or simply stubbing your toe on a table in the middle of the night.

Bruising, straining, or fracturing a bone in any of your toes is possible with even the most mundane of activities. Sometimes, you may not think the pain you feel is severe enough to be a break or a fracture, but depending on where in your toe the fracture occurs, pain levels will differ. It’s important to have any toe pain lasting more than a couple days assessed by a chiropodist in case you need a cast or binding.

Nerve Damage

Nerve damage on a toe can be caused by injury, sports, ill-fitting shoes, or other types of repetitive strain. Nerves can be compressed through these repetitive actions or a one-time event.

Morton’s Neuroma is one such type of nerve damage caused by the compression of a nerve in the foot. It usually occurs between the third and fourth toe but can also occur between the second and third toe. It is often described as feeling like a small stone is stuck underneath your foot. Depending on the nature of the nerve damage, it may be able to be reversed.

Surface Pain

Surface pain and surface damage on toes can occur with repetitive strain and simply just daily use. With ill fitting shoes or new environments, we can get blisters, corns, and calluses that can cause surface pain on the toe.

Surface toe pain is very common and often easily treated. Most people in their lives will experience a callus or a blister on one of their toes from running, walking, or wearing shoes that don’t quite fit. The most important thing when it comes to surface pain on the toe is to ensure that it does not get infected. This is particularly important for people suffering from diabetes as this wound infection can occur more easily.


Many people suffering from arthritis find that toe pain can be common. The most common place to get arthritis in the foot is at the base of the big toe (the metatarsophalangeal joint).  Because the big toe is continually bending up and down as we walk, it is prone to wear and tear.

Toe arthritis is caused when the cartilage that lines the metatarsalphalangeal joint is damaged and small lumps of bone form along the joint. This results in the stiffening of the big toe and inflammation of the joint. This can make walking very difficult, particularly in the mornings.


Gout is also a common cause of toe pain and joint pain. It is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis. It could affect any of the toes on the foot and its symptoms are typically a sudden intense pain, inflammation, tenderness, and redness.

Gout is caused by high levels of uric acid which leads to the formation of urate crystals which collect in joints and cause inflammation. This inflammation, if occurring in the toe joint, causes pain and discomfort.


If you suffer from bunions, there is a good chance you also suffer from pain in your big toe.  Bunions cause the big toe to change position over time. The bottom of the toe often starts to push outwards, forming a lump on the inside of the foot near the big toe joint. This misalignment can cause a great deal of pain in the big toe, particularly in severe cases.

Bunions usually do not lead to pain in the other four digits, but they can contribute to other conditions such as hammer toes and claw toes that can lead to pain in the other toes.

Ingrown Toenail

Like bunions, an ingrown toenail is another condition that is easy to visually diagnose. Ingrown toenails most commonly affect the big toe and develop when the curved edges on the side of the nail cut through the skin. The symptoms include toe pain, redness, and swelling, and you can often see that your toenail is misshapen.

Ingrown toenails are most often caused by improper nail trimming, injury, or wearing ill-fitting footwear. Ingrown toenails should be treated by a professional to ensure they do not cause an infection and that they do not become chronic.

Toe Pain Treatment

There are a variety of treatments available depending on the cause of your toe pain. It is necessary to have any toe pain diagnosed by a chiropodist to ensure that you’re getting the right treatment to alleviate your pain.

In the case of trauma, surface pain, or nerve pain, your chiropodist might recommend over-the-counter pain medication or a small splint to wear depending on the area of the injury. In the case of blisters, cuts, or other wounds, the best method of treatment is to ensure the area is kept clean and dry to avoid an infection.

There are a variety of custom orthotics and toe appliances available to treat toe pain and toe misalignment. In the case of arthritis, gout, bunions, hammer toes, and corns or calluses, there are night and day splints that can be worn to help remove the pressure from your toe joints and alleviate some of the pain.

In cases were toe pain is severe and splints and over-the-counter remedies do not eliminate the pain, surgery may be recommended. There are surgeries available to help treat arthritis, ingrown toenails, bunions, gout, and more.

In order to treat your toe pain correctly, book an appointment with a chiropodist.

Have Toe or Foot Pain?

If you’re suffering from toe or foot pain contact McQuistan Chiropody Hamilton. We can help diagnose your toe and foot pain, determine the reason for your pain, and recommend the best course of action for treating your symptoms.

Whether you have chronic foot pain, chronic toe pain, or experienced recent trauma to your toes, feet, or ankles, McQuistan Chiropody can help find the treatment plan that’s right for you. We are experienced professionals and know how to alleviate your toe pain.

Contact McQuistan Chiropody Hamilton today to book an appointment!