Can I cycle with a broken toe?
February 1, 2023 6:16 AM   Subscribe

I broke my little toe. I have to wear a boot for 3 weeks. I can't drive or cycle wearing a boot, so can I just buddy strap the toe for those activities?

X ray report says There is a slightly displaced spiral fracture of the fifth toe's proximal phalangeal shaft and neck, with mild lateral shift of the distal component.

Clean break, joint is not involved.
The toe is not sore at all even if I wiggle it, or walk on it, but it's 💀☠️🦨🦞😬 extremely sore if I stub it against something.

Obviously it would be better just to leave the boot on, but not being able to cycle or drive for 3 weeks is going to be tough.
posted by Zumbador to Health & Fitness (18 answers total)
 
I think buddy-taping is more for if there is a crack as opposed to a full-on break.

I know it's going to be tough not cycling or driving for 3 weeks - but what would be worse is not being able to walk for 6 weeks two years from now, when you're recovering from the surgery you needed to get because your toe didn't heal properly today.

It's just 3 weeks. Wear the boot. Listen to your doctor. You'll get through it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:20 AM on February 1 [11 favorites]


Counterpoint: I had exactly the same break many years ago. The entire medical establishment just gave me one giant eye roll, & treated me as though I'd gone to urgent care for a mosquito bite. They only ever had me buddy-taping it, with gauze in between to prevent skin-to-skin contact. So it seems like it's at least a valid option for this sort of injury, which leads me to say: Ask your doctor.
posted by jeffjon at 6:29 AM on February 1 [9 favorites]


What if you adjusted your foot placement while cycling so that you were placing the middle of your foot on the pedals? Then there wouldn't be any force on the toe (does the little toe even get any force while cycling?). I just read a review of some new MTB pedals that were designed for a mid foot placement so some people are biking that way.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 6:42 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I did this 40-odd years ago and it was treated by strapping to the next toe. No ill effects whatsoever nearly half a century later.
posted by essexjan at 6:43 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


If it were me, I would just try it (driving and biking with a buddy tape) and see how you feel.
posted by alex1965 at 6:45 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Ask your doctor ask your doctor ask your doctor.

- Signed, a woman who stubbornly overdid things after breaking a toe and still has occasional issues with The Toe Formerly Known as Broken
posted by BlueJae at 6:49 AM on February 1 [17 favorites]


I wouldn't. I did something similar to my ring finger years ago, slammed it in a door and then just buddy taped it, and it still bothers me. Three weeks is not a long time to 'pay' compared to what the potential trade-off could be.
posted by epanalepsis at 7:33 AM on February 1


I did this 40-odd years ago and it was treated by strapping to the next toe. No ill effects whatsoever nearly half a century later.

Age affects the rate and reliability of recovery, something to keep in mind.
posted by mhoye at 7:42 AM on February 1 [5 favorites]


Asking a clarifying question: Has your doctor expressly told you that you need to wear the boot?

If so, then that was the context for my previous comment: I assumed that your doctor had told you that the boot is what you need to wear, and you were just checking to see if that was overkill or not. But I notice others in here are assuming that you HAVEN'T spoken to your doctor about this yet and are advising you based on THAT context.

So: if your doctor has said that you need to wear the boot, wear the boot.

If you have not yet spoken to a doctor, talk to your doctor and do what they say.

If your doctor has said that you need to wear the boot but you are questioning whether it's really necessary, or wondering if maybe you can get away with not wearing it in specific situations, ask your doctor those follow up questions, or ask another doctor for a second opinion if you still aren't sure.

Context: I broke my foot in 2012 and my pain pattern was exactly like yours; it didn't hurt after a couple days, but when I bumped the site of the break, then it hurt. The kind of break I had was a kind that is prone to healing wrong. I asked my orthopedist how to avoid that; he advised me that any pain was a sign that the bones that were trying to knit themselves back together were getting pulled apart, and that was Bad. So I followed his exact instructions for wearing the boot cast, and even eschewed pain killers so I would be instantly aware of the slightest bit of pain so I could avoid it. I was only in the boot for 6 weeks and only did physical therapy for another 6 weeks, and that foot is totally fine today - an anomaly for people with that kind of break.

So if your doctor is saying "this is what you need to do," I'd listen. But if your doctor hasn't said either way, I'd get clarity from them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:46 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]


Response by poster: My doctor told me to wear the boot, and I only thought about driving and cycling after I put the phone down.

I've sent her an email with my questions.

At this stage I think I'm going to be conservative and wear the boot all the time but dammit.
posted by Zumbador at 8:27 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Sympathies; I know this sucks. My six-week stint was a bummer as well, particularly since I lived in a 4th-floor walkup at the time.

Something that got me through, and may be a fun thing for you to consider: the bar up the block from where I lived (ironically, that was also the place where I broke my foot in the first place) had a Friday evening Happy Hour. So I told myself that each Friday, I would treat myself to a pint of cider there to commemorate being One Week Closer To Being Done. Some kind of weekly "treat" like that might help ease the burden for you a bit - especially since you only have 3 weeks to get through.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:54 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I've done lots of cycling with a boot on.
I figure if it's not straining that spot directly, and it doesn't hurt, then it should be increasing blood flow which might be good news.

I did lower the seat so I could reach the bottom of the stroke more easily.

Careful about sudden stops if that's your 'ground' foot. Best if it can stay up on the pedal and you put the other one down at red lights etc.
posted by Acari at 11:35 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]


After a metatarsal fracture, I also cycled with my boot on (in the winter, too). With platform pedals, it was fairly easy to slightly adjust my foot's placement and ride all my usual routes.
posted by maudlin at 1:07 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I bike for transportation and if I broke a toe, I'd be awkwardly riding around in a boot for several weeks.
posted by aniola at 2:03 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


Cyclist and a person who broke her little toe when she was 15. All they did at the ER was set it back into position (it was sticking out at a 90 degree angle), and that hurt like a mf’er. The toe then was taped to its neighbor and I cut out the side of an old sneaker. I may have used crutches early on but I forget. Clean break, normal healing. If this happened again now, I’d probably take at least a few weeks off. But I’d complain.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 2:49 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I'm having pain right now because 15 years ago, I broke 2 toes and didn't take care of them, and now I get a horrible ache in those bones any time the weather gets damp or I step down wrong or I wear the wrong shoes or I walk too far. I recommend doing exactly what your doctor says, because I've been told the only solution at this point is surgery, so I've decided just to live with it.
posted by decathecting at 7:23 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


For some reason that's still unknown to me, both of my parents were constantly breaking their toes when I was a kid. They just buddy taped them, every time. They would, like, have the other one straighten it out and tape it. Guh.

Maybe that's why they're divorced now.

But yeah, they can both walk fine.

If you know any doctors or doctor-types personally, maybe ask them?
posted by nosila at 1:10 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


If you know any doctors or doctor-types personally, maybe ask them?

Noting that Zumbador has said twice now that they already have spoken to their doctor, and will be asking some follow-up questions.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:15 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


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