Home Toe Stubbed Toe Meaning, Turned Black, How To Heal

Stubbed Toe Meaning, Turned Black, How To Heal

by Dr. Joe Morales

Stubbed toes or jammed toe can be can be very painful but is not serious. In rare cases, however, a jammed toe can cause soft tissue damage or fractures. This can be considered serious and you may need to have it checked out by a professional healthcare provider.

So what does it mean to have a stubbed toe? Is there any difference between a stubbed and broken toe how do you heal the toe, these are some of the questions this article answers.

Stubbed toe superstitions

Some people hold different superstitions and myth involving jammed toe. Common ones include the following:

  • That if you stubbed your toe going into a house then you are not wanted there
  • Other communities interpreted it differently to say, if you stubbed your right toe it means you are welcomed there but if you stubbed the left then it is a sign that you are not welcomed
  • In other communities, if you stubbed your toe going anywhere, regardless of whether it is the right or left toe, it is regarded a sign of disappointment

Broken toe vs stubbed toe

In most of the cases, jammed toes are painful, frustrating but are not serious. In other cases, however, stubbing a toe can be serious thus requiring urgent medical attention.

In such cases, an injury that appears to be a jammed toe may be something else serious such as toe fracture or ligament sprain.

Serious injuries carry the risk of complication such as osteoarthritis.  It is therefore very important for one to be able to differentiate between a broken toe and a stubbed toe. Knowing how to recognize and treat both types can be a valuable first-aid skill.

If a broken bone is left untreated or is poorly treated, it can lead to problems that may affect your ability to walk or run. It can also lead to a lot of pain.

If you have ever stubbed your toe before, the severe pain can leave you wondering if your toe is broken. For most people the injury ends up being a sprain, meaning, though painful, the bone is still intact. But when the toe bone breaks, then you are said to have a broken toe.

Symptoms of a broken toe

Here are some symptoms that may help identify a broken toe:

  • Throbbing pain in the toe is the first sign of a broken o fractured bone
  • The toe may swell causing the skin on the affected toe to look bruised or temporarily change in color
  • Walking, standing or putting on the affected leg becomes very painful
  • For a bad break, the toe can dislocate thus rest in an unnatural angle

For a stubbed or jammed toe, you will expect the following:

  • The toe will not dislocate
  • It can swell and become very painful but begin to improve after some days
  • Unlike a break that causes pain right where the bone has fractured, a stubbed toe or a sprain may cause pain in a more general area around the toe

Most people may find it hard to differentiate between a fracture and a sprain, the only best way, therefore, to help minimize the risk of developing something serious is to see your healthcare provider.

Your doctor will be able to examine your toe and determine what type of injury it is. An x-ray may be required to diagnose a fracture.

Stubbed pinky toe turned black

For most people, the pinky toe or the fifth toe is the most commonly injured. The common causes are stubbing the toe into something hard or having something heavy land on the toe.

Walking barefooted is the major risk factor. This is common especially when walking in the dark or in an unfamiliar environment. In construction sites, carrying heavy objects without proper foot protection can also increase the risk of stubbing not only your pinky toe but also the others.

Apart from the immediate pain, your toe and foot can become quite swollen. In most cases, bruising occurs around the toe but in other cases, it may extend onto the foot. For some people, the toe can become black and blue over the course of a few days. This can be a sign of a serious injury.

It is normal to expect some bruising with a stubbed toe and blood under the toenail. However, if the discoloration lasts for a few days, spreads or you appear to have too much blood under the nail, you might have a broken toe. If the color is not the same to your normal bruises then it might be something different.

Lifted nail

lifted nail

When diagnosing a toe injury to establish whether it is a sprain or a fracture, the involvement of the toenail should be carefully inspected. A lifted toenail can be a sign of a cut to the skin under the nail. Left untreated, this can expose the skin and lead to a serious infection.

A lifted toenail can result from the accumulation of blood under the nail that can turn the nail black or blue. In some cases, this may need to be surgically drained.

A little loosening of the nail toward the tip of the nail is of little concern, however, bleeding and loosening at the base of the toenail is more serious and should be attended to as soon as possible. The base of the nail is very close to the joint, when affected, it can be a sign that the joint has been compromised.

When is a stubbed toe serious?

A stubbed toe is considered serious when the toe hurts or is still swollen months after the injury. This can be a sign of an underlying infection or a result of fractured bone that was not well treated. With a broken toe, it is likely to be tender and swollen even after a few weeks.

A stubbed or broken toe that does not ease after a few days or fails to heal properly could lead to osteoarthritis, this is a painful condition that causes chronic pain in one or more joints of the body. According to mayo clinic, this condition is the most common form of arthritis.

Normally, osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bone wears down over time. Though it can affect any joint in the body, it commonly affects joints in your hands, knees, hip, and spine.

Though the underlying process cannot be reversed, the symptoms can usually be effectively managed. You will need to stay active, maintain a healthy weight and use treatment options to slow progression of the disease. This will also help manage the pain and improve joint function.

A stubbed toe can be considered serious if it shows the following symptoms:

  • Severe joint pains after and during movements
  • Joint stiffness on the affected feet
  • Loss of joint flexibility or movements
  • The toe joints feel tender when you apply light pressure on it
  • A granting sensation from the affected toe or feet
  • Extra bits of bone that feel like hard lump may form around the affected toe

How to heal stubbed toe

The first step in healing a stubbed toe is accessing how bad the injury is. You need to first establish whether the toe is broken or it is a simple sprain.

If you are wearing a pair of shoe, gently remove it then carefully examine the injury.  Check if the toe is bleeding, bent, misplaced, or heavily swollen.

Now do the following:

  • Clean and disinfect any cuts. Use an antiseptic solution to clean the abrasion or cuts to prevent an infection. We recommend you use warm water.
  • Not dry the toe by patting with a clean towel then apply an antibacterial cream. Then protect the toe by covering it with a clean cotton bondage. You will need to replace the bandage every two days until it heals completely.
  • For swollen stubbed toe, first, apply a cold compress to bring down the swelling. To do this, there are different options available. You can use a gel ice pack, wrap some ice cubes in a towel, or even use an unopened bag of frozen vegetables.
  • To speed up the healing of a stubbed toe, you need to avoid putting pressure on the toe. To reduce pain and further swelling, try to shift some of your weight to your heel as you walk or stand
  • You also need to give enough room for your toe to “breathe” wearing tight shoes with a stubbed toe can make the pain and swelling even more irritated. Wear a loose open shoe to avoid this kind of pressure.
  • Also, you can support the stubbed toe by buddy taping. Simply using a clean cotton tap, wrap the stubbed toe with the next to give it support.
  • To relieve the pain and swelling, there are different over the counter pain medication you can use. When using such medication, be sure to follow dosage instruction to avoid any serious side effects that might be caused by the medication.

Preventing stubbed toe

The best way to prevent stubbed toes is to avoid the injuries before they happen.  This involves not walking barefooted especially in the dark and wearing protective shoes when working in areas such as in construction sites.

At home you can wear orthopedic slippers and when working wear safety footwear

orthopedic slippers

safety boot


  1. Everything you should know about broken toe: https://www.healthline.com/health/broken-toe#overview1
  2. When a stubbed toe is serious: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/neal-m-blitz/toe-injury_b_1907465.html
  3. Osteoarthritis, causes, symptoms, and treatment: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoarthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351925
  4. What is the difference between a stubbed and broken toe: http://www.kcfoot.com/blog/407-how-to-tell-if-your-toe-is-stubbed-or-broken
  5. How to treat a stubbed toe: http://basicfirstaid.ca/how-to-treat-a-stubbed-toe/

Leave a Comment

1 comment

Sylvia Ungertorelli Apr 8, 2020 - 4:18 am

I got a stubbed big toe last year, when I banged my toe on the sofa, it hurt so bad, and then, turned black, and felt like it was very sore, I could not trim it or touch it, and left it alone, until I could start to file it a little bit, I kept on putting peroxide to prevent infections, and letting the nail grow out as the new nail started to push the old nail out! It takes a long time, but finally, the old black nail is almost ready to fall off, and the new nail, will soon be seen, all white! But it is still not ready to fall off, and I must keep filling it, until it does come off on its own, when it is ready, and then, I will be very careful, not to stub my tow anymore!