Turf toe. Sounds like something you’d get from playing football, right? Well, it is. But football isn’t the only sport you can experience this sprain. If you’re a runner, basketball or soccer player, wrestler, gymnast, or a dancer, you can suffer from turf toe as well.

What Is Turf Toe?

Turf toe is a sprain to the ligaments of your big toe joint, where your foot and toe meet. When you walk, jump and run, your big toe helps maintain your balance and stability. When you take a step, you raise your heel off the ground and move your body weight forward onto the ball of your foot. As you continue to move forward, you push off with your big toe and shift your weight to your other foot. For some reason, if your big toe remains flat to the ground and doesn’t lift to push off, you may injure the area around the joint. Or, you can injure the joint if you toe remains fixed to the ground while falling forward. Basically, you’re hyperextending your toe. Typically, a turf toe injury happens suddenly, but it can also occur over time with repeated hyperextension.

Turf toe can change how your leg functions, causing other muscles to compensate for your big toe. These altered bio-mechanics may lead to injuries in your feet, ankles, knees and hips.

When Do Turf Toe Injuries Occur?

Turf toe injuries are more likely to occur when athletes are playing on artificial surfaces, like artificial grass. Artificial surfaces are often harder and provide less shock absorption for the foot.

Additionally, turf toe injuries happen when the athlete wears softer, more flexible shoes. While these types of athletic shoes give the athlete with more agility, they provide less stability in the forefoot. The increased flexibility of the shoe allows the foot to bend too far forward.

How Can I Prevent Turf Toe from Occurring?

Here are some ways you can keep turf toe from happening:

1. Exercises to maintain proper body alignment.

Turf toe may be caused by improper body alignment, which puts too much force on your big toe. Some exercises that can help improve your body alignment include:

Shin Dorsiflexor Release

On a stable, firm surface that’s about knee height, place a lacrosse-size ball under the front of your shin. Kneel onto the ball.

Continue to bend your knee into the ball, slowly allowing more of your body weight to sink into the ball.

Move the ball around your shin to find any spots of discomfort. Pump your foot up and down until the pain in that area decreases.

Continue to move the ball to find other sore spots along the muscle. Again, pump your foot up and down until the pain decreases.


Photo credit: 123RF / Nikola Nikolovski

Perform this exercise on both legs for 3 to 5 minutes.

Soleus Release

Sit on the ground with your lower calf on top of a lacrosse ball or foam roller.

For added pressure, place your other leg on top of the leg you’re exercising. Roll your calf on the leg you’re exercising up and down over the ball or roller.

If you find a spot that’s tender, stop and point your foot up and down for 30 seconds. Repeat these steps for additional tender spots.

Nose to Wall with Truck Rotation

Face a wall. Stand on one foot with your toes turned inward. Place your other foot behind you on the ground. Your weight should be on your front foot.

Softly bend your front knee. Shift your weight from your heel to the ball of your foot while keeping your back foot planted.

Keep your chest up throughout the exercise. Repeat for three sets of 10 reps on each leg.

2. Wear shoes with better support.

To keep your big toe joint from excessive bending and force when pushing off, wear properly fitted footwear that provides your feet with the support they need. To learn more how to properly fit your footwear, refer to the WalkEZStore’s Shoe Fitting Guide.

3. Insert ezWalker® Custom Fit Orthotics in your shoes.

ezWalkerezWalker Performance Custom Orthotic® Custom Fit Orthotics are designed to comfortably keep your feet in a proper bio-mechanical position. These ultra thin, ¾ in length custom orthotics evenly redistribute your weight across your entire foot. Additionally, they provide your feet with greater support while helping to absorb shock.

Visit the WalkEZStore to discover how ezWalker® Custom Fit Orthotics can help reduce your foot pain while preventing injuries of your feet, knees, hips and back. Schedule an appointment with Kathy Carandang, a certified pedorthist, to evaluate your gait and get fitted for your pair of ezWalker® Custom Orthotics. Or, you can place an order for your pair of ezWalker® Custom Fit Orthotics at our online store.

Because … when your feet feel good, you feel good.®


Disclaimer: The information included in this article is for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Main Photo Credit: 123RF / Marcos Calvo Meso