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Turf Toe Taping Tips: How, Why & When

Jan 31, 2024Jan 31, 2024

If you participate in physical activities on hard, slick surfaces, you may someday find yourself with turf toe. Turf toe is an injury to the big toe's main joint. This joint is called the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP).

A turf toe injury may also stretch or tear the ligaments and tendons surrounding the MTP joint. This area of the foot is called the plantar complex.

Turf toe tends to happen on firm, slick surfaces that don't have any give underneath, such as the turf that football is played on, hence its name.

Turf toe taping is one of several conservative treatments that support healing of this injury.

When done correctly, toe taping restricts flexion, or the ability of the big toe to bend. This provides:

Turf toe causes pain, swelling, and bruising, making it hard to stand or bear weight on your foot. In some instances, turf toe may also cause dislocation of the big toe, which may require surgery.

There are three grades of turf toe Grade 1, Grade 2, and Grade 3:

The more severe your turf toe injury, the longer it’ll take for complete healing to occur.

A turf toe injury occurs when the big toe hyperextends toward the foot, bending up and inward too far.

Picture a sprinting football player or ballerina dancing en pointe. These types of moves can lead to turf toe abruptly or over time.

Probably. There are very few clinical trials that have looked at turf toe taping's effectiveness for this condition.

However, a review of literature on turf toe injury determined that all three severity levels, or grades, benefit from conservative treatments, including taping and the R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method.

Wearing stiff-soled shoes or orthotics is also recommended.

There are several turf toe taping techniques. All of them are designed to hold the big toe rigidly in place and prevent the MTP joint from bending upward.

No matter which technique you use, make sure to tape your toe and foot firmly, but not with so much pressure that you cut off circulation.

The sooner you apply tape after the injury occurs, the better. You can use ice packs over the tape, as needed.

You should use rigid, cotton sports tape, such as zinc oxide tape. Zinc oxide tape is waterproof and doesn't require scissors to cut.

It provides enough rigidity to keep an injury in position for long periods of time without having to change the bandage. The most common-sized tapes used for turf toe taping are 1 inch (2.5 cm) or 1 1/2 inch (3.8 cm).

To tape turf toe:

Make sure you haven't made your bandage too tight by checking the blood flow to your toe. You can do this by pressing against the side of the taped toe.

The area you press against will turn white but should flush red in 2 or 3 seconds. If it doesn't turn red with blood returning to the area, your bandage is too tightly wound and needs to be redone.

Your bandage may also be too tight if you have a throbbing sensation in your foot.

The tape can remain on until healing has occurred. If the tape loosens or becomes soiled, remove and reapply.

If your pain is severe or doesn't abate with conservative treatment within 12 hours, call your doctor. You may have broken a bone or experienced an injury severe enough to require more aggressive treatment.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when considering turf toe taping:

You can try, but you’ll probably get better results if you have someone else do it for you.

Using the right tape will help. Athletic tape, such as zinc oxide tape, is rigid. This makes it easier to maneuver and stick where you want it to. It also tears easily so you won't have to use scissors to cut it.

Make sure you keep your toes slightly fanned out while you’re fashioning a bandage. This allows for the right amount of give when you stand.

If you play sports or other activities on hard or slippery surfaces, it may be difficult to avoid the recurrence of a turf toe injury.

However, here are some tips that can help you prevent a recurring injury:

Turf toe is a common injury among athletes and dancers.

Turf toe taping is effective for stabilizing the toe and foot. Taping the injury is one of several conservative treatments you can use to help turf toe heal.

If you don't see an improvement within 12 hours, call your doctor.

Grade 1 turf toe. Grade 2 turf toe. Grade 3 turf toe. Ice. NSAIDs. Time. Avoiding pressure.