What Is Tennis Toe?

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  • Written By: Solomon Branch
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2019
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Tennis toe, sometimes falsely referred to as turf toe, occurs as the result of sudden stopping movements that cause the big toe to ram up against the edge of a shoe. Although common in tennis, it can also be found in other sports where sudden stopping occurs, including soccer, football, basketball, and other sports played primarily with the feet on a hard or flat surface. Tennis toe is more often seen in those over 35 years of age, and happens more often on synthetic surfaces than natural ones.

When the big toe is constantly jamming against the edge of the shoe, the trauma usually affects the nail of the toe first. It often happens that the toenail does enough damage that it creates bleeding under the bed of the nail, referred to clinically as a subungual hematoma. Although the big toe, the toe closest to the mid-line of the body on both feet, is primarily the victim of tennis toe, any of the other toes can also fall prey to the movements that cause the problem. It is rare, however, for any other toe than the big and second toe to be affected.

There are several things that can be done to prevent tennis toe. The first thing to do is to check the length of the toenail. It is advisable to clip the nails so they don’t reach beyond the edge of the toe. In many cases, this can stop the problem.


Another problem that can cause tennis toe is shoes that are too tight or too loose, creating too much space for the toe to move. This can often be remedied by tightening the shoes or simply purchasing new ones. Taping the problem toe to the toe next to it may also help.

Although tennis toe is often referred to as turf toe, it is not an accurate description. Turf toe is caused by similar movements, but it refers damage to the tendons of the toe rather than the nail. It does not usually cause bleeding like tennis toe, although both conditions can occur at the same time.

Treatment for tennis toe depends on the severity. If there is only slight damage and little or no bleeding, antiseptic and a bandage can be applied to avoid infection and help healing. If there is a lot of bleeding or if the toe is swollen and infected, medical attention should be sought.


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Post 5

I had first heard about turf toe after our football team at college in the training room or physical therapy room, which is where all of the athletes went to figure out how to best cure or lessen the pain of various injuries so that we could play in the next game without being hurt or worsening the injury.

As soccer players, we did not know what turf toe was but at some point while I was playing a new trend cropped up where soccer players were buying the tightest shoe possible to play in because it was thought that you would make better contact with the ball with tight shoes.

Luckily this trend did not last long enough for anyone to get turf toe, but I know plenty of players that were uncomfortable while playing while they tried the too tight shoes.

Maybe it works for some people playing soccer, but it did not work for me!

Post 4

@popcorn - I will have to go to the big tennis warehouse supply store in our city and see if I can find a pair of steel toe tennis shoes for men, so my husband will stop complaining about his sore feet. It is good to hear that they work so well to prevent injury.

I am currently wearing a pair of open toe tennis shoes to combat the issue of sore toes, but my husband is always afraid I am going to injure myself. I suppose the shoes I have are more for fashion than playing sports, but they are just so comfortable.

Post 3

A good way to prevent tennis toe is to get a really good pair of shoes. I was sick of my toe getting sore so I invested in a pair of Converse steel toe tennis shoes that fit well. I find that with the steel toe the ends of my toes are protected from getting squished.

Another thing I liked about the steel toe tennis shoes as they weren't any more expensive than regular tennis shoes. I shopped around and got a good deal on mine.

The only thing I don't like about them is that the feel a bit heavy at times. I found it took me a week or so to really get used to them.

Post 2

@helene55- I had that happen to me too. It might mean you got the wrong shoe for your foot, or like you say just be a need to break them in. It also depends, I think, on if this were to happen even if you went walking in the shoes, and if it happens again after you wear them several times.

Post 1

I thought I had tennis toe, but I guess my problem is a little different.

When I run or play tennis sometimes, if my shoes is new or too tight, I rub against my small toe, and every so often it ends with the toenail falling clean off. While not as serious as actual tennis toe, it still reminds me that my shoes need breaking in.

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